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Brooklyn: A Novel Paperback – March 2, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1st edition (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439148953
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439148952
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (387 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, May 2009: Committed to a quiet life in little Enniscorthy, Ireland, the industrious young Eilis Lacey reluctantly finds herself swept up in an unplanned adventure to America, engineered by the family priest and her glamorous, "ready for life" sister, Rose. Eilis's determination to embrace the spirit of the journey despite her trepidation--especially on behalf of Rose, who has sacrificed her own chance of leaving--makes a bittersweet center for Brooklyn. Colm Tóibín's spare portrayal of this contemplative girl is achingly lovely, and every sentence rings with truth. Readers will find themselves swept across the Atlantic with Eilis to a boarding house in Brooklyn where she painstakingly adapts to a new life, reinventing herself and her surroundings in the letters she writes home. Just as she begins to settle in with the help of a new love, tragedy calls her home to Enniscorthy, and her separate lives suddenly and painfully merge into one. Tóibín's haunted heroine glows on the page, unforgettably and lovingly rendered, and her story reflects the lives of so many others exiled from home. --Daphne Durham
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

SignatureReviewed by Maureen HowardColm Tóibín's engaging new novel, Brooklyn, will not bring to mind the fashionable borough of recent years nor Bed-Stuy beleaguered with the troubles of a Saturday night. Tóibín has revived the Brooklyn of an Irish-Catholic parish in the '50s, a setting appropriate to the narrow life of Eilis Lacey. Before Eilis ships out for a decent job in America, her village life is sketched in detail. The shops, pub, the hoity-toity and plainspoken people of Enniscorthy have such appeal on the page, it does seem a shame to leave. But how will we share the girl's longing for home, if home is not a gabby presence in her émigré tale? Tóibín's maneuvers draw us to the bright girl with a gift for numbers. With a keen eye, Eilis surveys her lonely, steady-on life: her job in the dry goods store, the rules and regulations of her rooming house—ladies only. The competitive hustle at the parish dances are so like the ones back home—it's something of a wonder I did not give up on the gentle tattle of her story, run a Netflix of the feline power struggle in Claire Booth Luce's The Women. Tóibín rescues his homesick shopgirl from narrow concerns, gives her a stop-by at Brooklyn College, a night course in commercial law. Her instructor is Joshua Rosenblum. Buying his book, the shopkeeper informs her, At least we did that, we got Rosenblum out.You mean in the war?His reply when she asks again: In the holocaust, in the churben.The scene is eerie, falsely naïve. We may accept what a village girl from Ireland, which remained neutral during the war, may not have known, but Tóibín's delivery of the racial and ethnic discoveries of a clueless young woman are disconcerting. Eilis wonders if she should write home about the Jews, the Poles, the Italians she encounters, but shouldn't the novelist in pursuing those postwar years in Brooklyn, in the Irish enclave of the generous Father Flood, take the mike? The Irish vets I knew when I came to New York in the early '50s had been to that war; at least two I raised a glass with at the White Horse were from Brooklyn. When the stage is set for the love story, slowly and carefully as befits his serious girl, Tóibín is splendidly in control of Eilis's and Tony's courtship. He's Italian, you see, of a poor, caring family. I wanted to cast Brooklyn, with Rosalind Russell perfect for Rose, the sporty elder sister left to her career in Ireland. Can we get Philip Seymour Hoffman into that cassock again? J. Carol Naish, he played homeboy Italian, not the mob. I give away nothing in telling that the possibility of Eilis reclaiming an authentic and spirited life in Ireland turns Brooklyn into a stirring and satisfying moral tale. Tóibín, author of The Master, a fine-tuned novel on the lonely last years of Henry James, revisits, diminuendo, the wrenching finale of The Portrait of a Lady. What the future holds for Eilis in America is nothing like Isabel Archer's return to the morally corrupt Osmond. The decent fellow awaits. Will she be doomed to a tract house of the soul on Long Island? I hear John McCormick take the high note—alone in the gloaming with the shadows of the past—as Tóibín's good girl contemplates the lost promise of Brooklyn.Maureen Howard's The Rags of Time, the last season of her quartet of novels based on the four seasons, will be published by Viking in October.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Colm Toibin is the author of four previous novels, The South, The Heather Blazing, The Story of the Night, and The Blackwater Lightship, which was shortlisted for the 1999 Booker Prize. He lives in Dublin.

Customer Reviews

It is very well written, the characters are artfully described and engage your interest.
christmas elf
The more that I read, the more disappointed I became, and it became a harder book to even finish towards the end.
John Williamson
Frankly, the main character, Eilis, never seems to care that much about home or Brooklyn.
Book Lover

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

290 of 303 people found the following review helpful By "switterbug" Betsey Van Horn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Reading Brooklyn was an unusual experience. Why? Because I had to read the whole book to appreciate it and be gripped by it. The book was like an embryo--rudimentary, unborn. But when I read the last paragraph, I actually got a spine chill. And, later, after shelving it, my thoughts wandered back to the story with a deeper pleasure.

For the first 100 (or more) pages, nothing much happens. Young provincial Irish girl Eilis Lacey travels to America(circa 1950), leaving her sister and mother in the Irish berg. She improves her education, her appearance, and refines her tastes. With the help of a family friend (a priest), Eilis finds a place to live in a rooming house and a tedious job in a clothing shop. She encounters new friends, (all rather shallow), meets a man, has a courtship. It is all very mundane. When she lies in bed after receiving a letter from home, she actually thinks about her mother or sister taking out the envelope, what kind of envelope, how many envelopes. I was exasperated at that point.

Yet I kept reading. Toibin is a competent writer, and I was at least partially engaged, although I remained skeptical of any interesting story emerging. You know how some authors fail to maintain control over their story and characters? Well, Toibin has perhaps too MUCH control. That is how it seemed as I was reading. It plodded along, but rather lightly. I did like Eilis and cared what happened to her, but I wanted something imaginative or inventive to occur. At least one splashy thing. But when something dramatic happened in the last 100 pages, it didn't really affect me too much. It seemed more of a vehicle for other action to take place, for Eilis to enter into decisive conflict and change.
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110 of 113 people found the following review helpful By sb-lynn TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Brief summary, no spoilers:

There are no explosions in this book. There are no murders, car chases, scenes with international espionage, or anything that would require its movie rendition to have special effects.

Instead, this beautifully written story is about a young girl named Eilis Lacey, who lives with her mother and with her attractive, vivacious sister Rose in a small town in Ireland. The time period is the 1950s. Eilis is smart and good with numbers but there is not much employment opportunity where she lives, so a priest with connections in both Ireland and New York gets her both boarding and a job in Brooklyn.

Needless to say, Eilis has to learn to live in a new culture and away from the only home she's ever known. Everything is so strange and new, but soon she meets a sweet young man named Tony and suddenly she begins to adjust and flourish.

This is the story of a young, immigrant girl learning to deal with change and adversity and how this makes her grow both intellectually and emotionally. It's also about dealing with disparate cultures, and having your heart and soul divided. Just what is "home?"

That this novel is written by a man is truly stunning - because Eilis comes alive from these pages and her thoughts and reactions generally rang true.

I also want to add that I could not stop reading towards the end because I just had to find out how this was all going to be resolved. And let's just say that this would make a very good novel for book clubs - there are going to be lots of different opinions on the denouement.

My only quibbles? I had trouble with the male characters, especially Tony. In many ways he didn't seem real to me, and if anything, too idealized.
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54 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Solano on July 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Spare, beautiful writing gives this novel three stars. But the story itself is so lacking in depth, with unrealized characters. Eilis, the protaganist, offers so much potential for the author to plumb the history of the immigrant -- their myriad reasons for coming here, the struggles to make it, the ties to their home country.

Instead, life basically happens to this girl, with no real effort or participation of her own. She doesn't desire to come to America but it's conveniently planned out for her (including a job and home for when she arrives), she doesn't fall in love but rather comes to accept the love of another. I kept waiting for her to grow into and express her own intentions, to make her own decisions, but alas, even the ending is simply an acceptance of circumstances.

There were several tangential characters (sister Rose, the department store manager, the professor) who pique interest. I would have enjoyed learning more about them, and their stories could have elevated this passive, unfulfilling journey.
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53 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Charlus on April 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Colm Toibin enters William Trevor territory with this lovely novel about an Irish immigrant's move to Brooklyn in post-World War II America. In spare unhurried prose he covers her experience with the departure from her limited world, a nightmarish crossing, learning to deal with a new job, night school, her boarding house acquaintances and new love.

Those looking for a speedy read will be frustrated by the measured pace of the incidents as well as their unremarkable nature. But in dwelling on the quotidian Toibin evokes an all enveloping reality of time and place and character.

Relationships aren't distorted for melodramatic ends as in "The Blackwater Lightship", nor is the book as moving or as intellectually and emotionally satisfying as his masterpiece "The Master". But this is as good an example of a writer's craft in creating a lived-in reality of small engrossing lives as one can find.
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