Brooklyn: A Novel and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

Brooklyn: A Novel
 
 


or
Sign in to turn on 1-Click ordering
More Buying Choices
Have one to sell? Sell yours here
Start reading Brooklyn: A Novel on your Kindle in under a minute.

Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App.

Brooklyn: A Novel [Paperback]

Colm Toibin
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (373 customer reviews)

List Price: $15.00
Price: $13.50 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
You Save: $1.50 (10%)
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
In Stock.
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
Want it tomorrow, July 24? Choose One-Day Shipping at checkout. Details
‹  Return to Product Overview

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.

From The New Yorker

Tóibín’s brief novel, following his bravura rendering of the life of Henry James in “The Master,” seems modest at first. A diligent young woman with few opportunities in nineteen-fifties Ireland is packed off by her family to Brooklyn, where she works in a department store, goes to church and night school, and acquires a boyfriend, before a family crisis presents her with a stark choice between her new life and her old one. Within these confines, Tóibín creates a narrative of remarkable power, writing with a spareness and intensity that give the minutest shades of feeling immense emotional impact. Seen through his protagonist’s cautious eyes, even hackneyed tropes of Brooklyn life, such as trips to Ebbets Field and Coney Island, take on a subtle strangeness. Purging the immigrant novel of all swagger and sentimentality, Tóibín leaves us with a renewed understanding that to emigrate is to become a foreigner in two places at once.
Copyright ©2008 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

At first, Brooklyn may seem like a weaving together of the traditional, even stereotypical, threads of an immigrant story, a 1950s love story, and a tale of a woman’s struggle for independence. But, critics soon discovered, the novel is so much more. Perhaps Tóibín’s greatest feat is his sensitive, respectful portrayal of Eilis—an uncritical, unsophisticated, compliant, and perhaps, according to some reviewers, too naïve young woman. The author accomplishes “an almost impossible characterization: the heroine as doormat,” praised the Christian Science Monitor. Tóibín’s prose, as usual, sparkles with clarity and insight. As he unburies powerful emotions about love, freedom, authenticity, and duty, as well as resolving Eilis’s dilemma of the heart, he elevates his sixth novel far above its peers.
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In his latest novel, following The Master (2004), a celebrated and highly imaginative  re-creation of the life of American novelist Henry James, Toibin maintains his focus on the past. Keeping the pace relatively slow and stressing the wealth of authoritative detail, he contrasts small-town Ireland and big-city Brooklyn in the early 1950s, highlighting the vast differences between the two in customs and opportunity. Eilis Lacey, a smart young woman unafraid of hard work, must leave employment-poor Ireland to find a more lucrative existence in booming New York City. Under the auspices of an Irish priest, Eilis secures employment at a department store and residence in a rooming house for young women. She meets a handsome, charming Italian man, and their relationship quickly flowers into love. When her outgoing sister dies in Ireland, Eilis returns home and must face the decision to stay put or go back to the more exciting life she had begun to create in Brooklyn. --Brad Hooper --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Tóibín … [is] his generation’s most gifted writer of love’s complicated, contradictory power.”
— Floyd Skoot, Los Angeles Times

“A classical coming-of-age story, pure, unsensationalized, quietly profound… There are no antagonists in this novel, no psychodramas, no angst. There is only the sound of a young woman slowly and deliberately stepping into herself, learning to make and stand behind her choices, finding herself.”
— Pam Houston, O, the Oprah Magazine

“Reading Tóibín is like watching an artist paint one small stroke after another until suddenly the finished picture emerges to shattering effect…. Brooklyn stands comparison with Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady.”
The Times Literary Supplement (U.K.)

"[A] triumph… One of those magically quiet novels that sneak up on readers and capture their imaginations."
— USA Today

About the Author

Colm Tóibín is the author of seven novels, including The Blackwater Lightship; The Master, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Brooklyn, winner of the Costa Book Award; and The Testament of Mary, as well as two story collections. Twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Tóibín lives in Dublin and New York.

From The Washington Post

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com Reviewed by Jonathan Yardley For the second time in three weeks I have before me a work of fiction about the lives of Irish immigrants in the United States. Previously, it was Mary Beth Keane's heartfelt if slow-moving first novel, "The Walking People." Now we have "Brooklyn," the sixth novel by the eminent Irish writer Colm Tóibín. Probably the timing is pure coincidence rather than evidence of a new literary trend, but it's interesting that both books deal with the theme of persistent Irish identity in a new land and both evoke the deep homesickness that the Irish often feel here even as they strive to become thoroughly American. Tóibín is an immensely gifted and accomplished writer who has covered a remarkable range of subjects from Henry James (in his novel "The Master") to homosexuality (in "Love in a Dark Time: Gay Lives from Wilde to Almodóvar"), so it comes as no surprise that "Brooklyn" is intelligent and affecting. What may surprise American readers, however, is how confidently familiar Tóibín seems to be with New York City during the early 1950s, the period in which the novel is set. To be sure, he has had occasional teaching engagements in New York (and in Washington and Princeton as well), but they are unlikely to have taught him as much about, say, the Brooklyn Dodgers and "Singin' in the Rain" as is on display here. The period feeling of "Brooklyn" is genuine and impressive. At the center of the story is Eilis (a Celtic name that mean's "God's oath") Lacey, who is somewhere around 20 years old when the novel opens. She lives in a small town in Ireland with her widowed mother and her older sister, Rose, a smart, spirited 30-year-old. Eilis is studying bookkeeping and preparing for a conventional Irish life: "Eilis had always presumed that she would live in the town all her life, as her mother had done, knowing everyone, having the same friends and neighbours, the same routines in the same streets. She had expected that she would find a job in the town, and then marry someone and give up the job and have children." Then the unexpected happens. A priest visiting from the United States, Father Flood, takes a liking to Eilis and offers to sponsor her in Brooklyn, finding her a job with a merchant on Fulton Street and arranging a room for her in a boarding house for respectable young women. She has a bit of a timid streak -- "She would prefer to stay at home, sleep in this room, live in this house, do without the [new] clothes and shoes" -- but Rose urges her to seize the opportunity: "Rose, she realized, in making it easy for her to go, was giving up any real prospect of leaving this house herself and having her own house, with her own family. Eilis . . . saw that in the future, as her mother got older and more frail, Rose would have to care for her even more, go up the steep steps of the stairs with trays of food and do the cleaning and cooking when her mother could not." As much to honor Rose's sacrifice as to improve her own prospects, Eilis goes to Liverpool and boards a liner there for New York. She's put into a cabin with a brusque, no-nonsense Englishwoman who turns out to be an unlikely but wholly endearing saint; the voyage is dreadful, but the woman makes it bearable. Eilis gets off to a good start at the store -- she may be unassuming, but she's also competent and resourceful -- but then she receives a batch of letters from home, and suddenly her head is filled with images of what she has left behind: "All this came to her like a terrible weight and she felt for a second that she was going to cry. It was as though an ache in her chest was trying to force tears down her cheeks despite her enormous effort to keep them back. She did not give in to whatever it was. She kept thinking, attempting to work out what was causing this new feeling that was like despondency, that was like how she felt when her father died and she watched them closing the coffin, the feeling that he would never see the world again and she would never be able to talk to him again." Her boss at the shop worries about her and calls on Father Flood. "You're homesick, that's all," he tells her. "Everybody gets it. But it passes. In some it passes more quickly than in others. There's nothing harder than it." To help her stay busy, he steers her to a night class "in bookkeeping and preliminary accountancy" at Brooklyn College. This proves to be her salvation. She passes the course easily, then does the same the following year, qualifying herself to work as a bookkeeper. Of even greater moment, at a dance sponsored by Father Flood at the parish hall, she meets a young man named Tony, who clearly is attracted to her. He is "clean-cut and friendly and open in his gaze." He is also Italian -- his full name is Antonio Giuseppe Fiorello -- and he works as a plumber, a trade that gives her pause, but only briefly as he woos her, with kindness and patience and infinite tact. He and his brothers are ardent Dodgers fans and eager to make their mark on the world; they've bought a piece of land on Long Island and aim to develop it into a family compound from which all of them can work at their trades. It takes a while, for Eilis is not one to take hasty plunges, but soon enough she returns Tony's love and begins to envision a future with him. Then terrible news arrives from Ireland, and she has no choice except to return. Almost immediately upon her arrival, various forces combine to pressure her into renouncing her new American life, to settle back into the set ways of her village. The choice, in the end, is difficult and painful. "Brooklyn" is a modest novel, but it has heft. The portrait Tóibín paints of Brooklyn in the early '50s is affectionate but scarcely dewy-eyed; Eilis encounters discrimination in various forms -- against Italians, against blacks, against Jews, against lower-class Irish -- and finds Manhattan more intimidating than alluring. Tóibín's prose is graceful but never showy, and his characters are uniformly interesting and believable. As a study of the quest for home and the difficulty of figuring out where it really is, "Brooklyn" has a universality that goes far beyond the specific details of Eilis's struggle.
Copyright 2009, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Eilis went to midnight mass with Mrs. Kehoe and Miss Keegan, discovering on the way home that Mrs. Kehoe was among the parishioners who were roasting a turkey and potatoes and boiling a ham for Father Flood, who had arranged for it all to be collected at twelve.

"It's like the war," Mrs. Kehoe said. "Feeding the army. Has to be done like clockwork. I'll carve what our own small needs will be from the turkey, the biggest one I could get, it'll be six hours in the oven, before I send it off. And we'll eat, just the four of us, myself, Miss McAdam, Miss Heffernan and Miss Keegan here, as soon as the turkey is off our hands. And if there's anything left over, we'll save it for you, Eilis."

By nine o'clock Eilis was in the parish hall peeling vegetables in the big kitchen at the back. There were women working beside her whom she had never met before, all of them older than she, some with faint American accents but all of Irish origin. Most of them were just here for this part of the morning, she was told, before going home to feed their families. Soon it became clear that two women were in charge. When Father Flood arrived he introduced Eilis to them.

"They are the Miss Murphys from Arklow," he said. "Though we won't hold that against them."

The two Miss Murphys laughed. They were tall, cheerfullooking women in their fifties.

"It'll be just the three of us," one of them said, "here all day. The other helpers will come and go."

"We're the ones with no homes to go to," the other Miss Murphy said and smiled.

"Now, we'll feed them in sets of twenty," her sister said.

"Each of us prepares sixty-five dinners, it might even be more, in three sittings. I'm in Father Flood's own kitchen and the two of you are here in the hall. As soon as a turkey arrives, or when the ones we have cooking upstairs are ready, Father Flood will attack them and the hams and carve them. The oven here is just for keeping things hot. For an hour people will bring us turkeys and hams and roast potatoes and the thing is to have vegetables cooked and hot and ready to be served."

"Rough and ready might be a better way of putting it," the other Miss Murphy interrupted.

"But we have plenty of soup and stout for them while they're waiting. They're very nice, all of them."

"They don't mind waiting, and if they do, they don't say."

"Are they all men?" Eilis asked.

"A few couples come because she is too old to cook, or they're too lonely, or whatever, but the rest are men," Miss Murphy said. "And they love the company and it's Irish food, you know, proper stuffing and roast potatoes and Brussels sprouts boiled to death." She smiled at Eilis and shook her head and sighed.

As soon as ten o'clock mass was over people began to call by. Father Flood had filled one of the tables with glasses and bottles of lemonade and sweets for the children. He made everyone who came in, including women with fresh hairdos, put on a paper hat. Thus as the men began to arrive to spend all of Christmas Day in the hall they were barely noticed among the crowd. It was only later, after midday, when the visitors began to disperse, that they could be seen clearly, some of them sitting alone with a bottle of stout in front of them, others huddled in groups, many of them stubbornly still wearing cloth caps instead of paper hats.

The Miss Murphys were anxious for the men who came first to gather at one or two of the long tables, enough to make a group who could be served soon with bowls of soup so that the bowls could be washed and used again by the next group. As Eilis, on instructions, went out to encourage the men to sit down at the top table nearest to the kitchen, she observed coming into the hall a tall man with a slight stoop; he was wearing a cap low over his forehead and an old brown overcoat with a scarf at the neck. She paused for a moment and stared at him.

He stood still as soon as he had closed the main door behind him, and it was the way he took in the hall, surveying the scene with shyness and a sort of mild delight, that made Eilis sure, for one moment, that her father had come into her presence. She felt as though she should move towards him as she saw him hesitantly opening his overcoat and loosening his scarf. It was how he stood, taking full slow possession of the room, searching almost shyly for the place where he might be most comfortable and at ease, or looking around carefully to see if he knew anybody. As she realized that it could not be him, that she was dreaming, he took off his cap and she saw that the man did not look like her father at all. She glanced around her, embarrassed, hoping that no one had noticed her. It was something, she thought, that she could tell no one, that she had imagined for an instant that she had seen her father, who was, she remembered quickly, dead for four years.

Although the first table had not been filled, she turned and went back to the kitchen and set about checking the number of plates for the first serving, even though she knew she had the right number, and then lifting the lid of the huge saucepan to check if the Brussels sprouts were boiling, even though she knew that the water was not hot enough yet. When one of the Miss Murphys asked her if the nearest table had been filled up and if every man had a glass of stout, Eilis turned and said that she had done her best to move the men to the tables but maybe Miss Murphy could do better. She tried to smile, hoping that Miss Murphy did not notice anything strange.

For the next two hours she was busy, piling food on to plates, carrying them out two at a time. Father Flood carved turkeys and hams as they arrived, piling stuffing and roast potatoes into bowls. For a while, one Miss Murphy devoted herself entirely to washing up and drying and cleaning and clearing space as her sister and Eilis served the men, making sure to leave nothing out -- turkey, ham, stuffing, roast potatoes and Brussels sprouts -- and making sure in their haste not to give anyone too much or too little.

"There's plenty of food now, so don't worry," Father Flood shouted, "but no more than three potatoes a head and go easy on the stuffing."

When they had enough meat carved, he went outside and busied himself opening more bottles of stout.

At first the men seemed shabby to Eilis and she noticed body odours from a good number of them. As they sat down and drank their stout waiting for the soup or the food, she could not believe there were so many of them, some of them so poor-looking and so old, but even the younger ones had bad teeth and appeared worn down. Many were still smoking, even as the soup came. She did her best to be polite to them.

She observed a change in them soon, however, as they began to talk to each other or shout greetings down the table or enter into low, intense conversations. At first they had reminded her of men who sat on the bridge in Enniscorthy or gathered at the seat at Arnold's Cross or the Louse Bank by the Slaney, or men from the County Home, or men from the town who drank too much. But by the time she served them and they turned to thank her, they seemed more like her father and his brothers in the way they spoke or smiled, the toughness in their faces softened by shyness, what had appeared stubborn or hard now strangely tender. As she served the man she had thought was her father, she looked at him carefully, amazed at how little he actually resembled him, as though it had been a trick of the light or something she had completely imagined. She was surprised also to find that he was talking to the man beside him in Irish.

"This was the miracle of the turkey and the ham," Miss Murphy said to Father Flood when large plates of second helpings had been left on all the tables.

"Brooklyn-style," her sister said.

"I'm glad it's trifle now," she added, "and not plum pudding and we don't have to worry about keeping it hot."

"Wouldn't you think they'd take off their caps when they are eating?" her sister asked. "Don't they know they're in America?"

"We have no rules here," Father Flood said. "And they can smoke and drink all they like. If we can get them all home safely, that's the main thing. We always have a few a bit too under the weather to go home."

"Too drunk," one Miss Murphy said.

"Ah, on Christmas Day we call it under the weather, and I have a rake of beds made up for them in my own house," Father Flood said.

"What we'll do now is have our own dinner," Miss Murphy said. "And I'll set the table and I've kept a nice dinner for each of us hot and everything."

"Well, I was wondering if we were going to eat at all," Eilis said.

"Poor Eilis. She's starving. Will you look at her?"

"Should we not serve the trifle first?" Eilis asked.

"No, we'll wait," Father Flood said. "It'll stretch the day out."

By the time they were removing the trifle dishes, the hall was a mass of smoke and animated talk. Men sat in groups with one or two standing behind them; others moved from group to group, some with bottles of whiskey in brown paper bags that they passed around. When all the cleaning of the kitchen and the filling of garbage cans had been completed, Father Flood suggested that they go into the hall and join the men for a drink. Some visitors had arrived, including a few women, and Eilis thought, as she sat down with a glass of sherry in her hand, that it could have been a parish hall anywhere in Ireland on the night of a concert or a wedding when the young people were all elsewhere dancing or standing at the bar.

After a while Eilis noticed that two men had taken out fiddlesand another a small accordion; they had found a corner and wereplaying as a few others stood around and listened. Father Floodwas moving about the hall with a notebook now, writing downnames and addresses and nodding as old men spoke to him. Aftera while he clapped his hands and called for silence but it took afew minutes before he could get everyone's attention.

"I don't want to interrupt the proceedings," he said, "but we'd like to thank a nice girl from Enniscorthy and two nice women from Arklow for their hard day's work."

There was a round of applause.

"And, as a way of thanking t... --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From AudioFile

An exceptionally subdued novel, BROOKLYN is enhanced by the velvety voice of Kirsten Potter, whose narration is skilled and personable. The quiet progress of protagonist Eilis as she journeys from small-town Ireland to postwar Brooklyn is enlivened by Potter's effortless delivery of accents and personalities. Various characters move through Brooklyn's streets and Eilis's life, and Potter is at the ready with distinct voices for each one. With its simple prose and plot, the story of Eilis's time in her new country might be overlooked without Potter's talents, which draw listeners in and keep them engaged. Potter takes an understated story and makes it well worth a listen. L.B.F. © AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
‹  Return to Product Overview