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Customer Review

328 of 345 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't give up on it--a provocative ending, March 27, 2009
This review is from: Brooklyn: A Novel (Hardcover)
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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.

It is so subtle and restrained that I almost didn't know when I became fully engaged. During the last portion of the book, I was in suspense, wondering what would happen, but speculating that it would be predictable.

Full resolution occurs in the final moments. That last paragraph was a titanic moment for me. It undid all my former expectations with its bittersweet irony and unpredictable ending. My three-star rating went up to four-stars. I finished this quick novel in two sittings, but the impact really begins at the end and continues to foment even after you are finished.

Don't give up on it even though it seems that nothing is happening. The whole is better than the sum of its parts--the end was arresting, even astonishing.
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Tracked by 5 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 32 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 3, 2009 6:14:41 AM PDT

Well, once again we come out near each other on this one; haven't written my review yet, but we're thinking alike, and I see you're doing well on this review too. Good for you,

Posted on May 10, 2009 10:12:52 PM PDT
Gail says:
That's exactly how I felt! I was enjoying the book (loved The Master) but was waiting for something to happen. Then I found myself in its grips and also bowled over by the last paragraph. Keep reading!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2009 8:17:31 PM PDT
Cipriano says:
I agree with this review.
From about page 180 onward...... he turns the skis downhill.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 20, 2009 1:50:50 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 20, 2009 1:51:03 PM PDT
Brava on this review! I agree with you about the ending, though I must say I enjoyed the simplicity of the early parts of the story a lot too, especially as an Irishman of that generation myself.

Posted on Jul 24, 2009 6:58:07 PM PDT
I am with you all the way. I almost gave up after about 120 pages and am glad I didn't. It is a brilliant book.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 27, 2009 8:58:02 PM PDT
Yes, it is brilliant, isn't this sublime kind of way. No flashes of special effects--just quietly ingenious.

Posted on Sep 27, 2009 1:17:46 PM PDT
SHReader says:
Fabulous account of the book. Perfectly worded. I had the same experience when I read it--didn't realize how much I loved it until I finished it!

Posted on Dec 21, 2009 8:31:17 PM PST
Rose21 says:
I liked the gentle story-telling quality to the writing. There is a lot of trivial detail, but for me, it added to the atmosphere and authenticity. Your experience (as a reader) is essentially that of the heroine, and the detail (seemingly trivial) has us inhabiting her world. I did not find this book slow moving at all. Rather, I found it sensually rich. The ending was the icing on the cake (even if not a particularly celebratory cake.)

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 18, 2010 6:03:47 PM PST
B. Clarkson says:
Hi Switterbug, I have just read this book (I live in New Zealand) and am perplexed by the ending. I'm not sure I understand why the ending is so stunning. She decided to return to Brooklyn right? Can you expand on why you thought the ending was so good?

Posted on Jun 4, 2010 12:25:38 PM PDT
I'm going to have to say that the ending was not at all stunning or brilliant or anything worth reflecting over. She returns to Brooklyn, for the man that took up most of her life, Tony! Not Jim Farrell. She made a smart decision.
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