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Brooklyn Paperback – September 8, 2015
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"Killers of the Flower Moon" is a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history. See more
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
What is perhaps most disquieting is the praise heaped on this book by the literary establishment. The publishing industry is an embarrassing clutch of inbred New York literati who stand as self-appointed gatekeepers while keeping company with a complicit establishment of editorial critics. As long as they keep reminding each other of their brilliance and superiority, all is well. It is infuriating to read how Toibin’s writing in Brooklyn is “spare” and has “remarkable power,” etc. This is utter nonsense. Shame on you all. While some of Toibin’s other work may achieve these heights, Brooklyn most certainly does not. The writing is not “spare,” it is simply simple. Juvenile. Sophomoric. Something you’d expect to get from a second-year English-lit student. It has a “See Spot run” sort of quality, as if the writer couldn’t decide if he was writing a children’s book or an adult novel. There’s nary a well-crafted, insightful sentence to be found. Toibin seems to have forgotten the concept of authorial irony and the subtleties of narrative that flow from such irony, the enjoyment it evokes for the reader. There is an unending train of “she thought”s and “she felt”s and “she knew that”s even though we Think we Know what she Felt without being told at every turn.
The ending, if you can get there, is well done. But a good ending does not justify the means when it comes to a novel. See the movie instead.
We can understand her having fallen, over a period of months, for faithful, good-hearted Tony; but there was nothing to justify her sudden switch to Jim or the easy way she neglected her mother once he came on the scene. I like characters to change for good and logical reasons; Eilis seemed to have changed because it was convenient for the author. And just a little convenient, too, that Miss Kelly and Mrs. Kehoe happened to be cousins who spoke by telephone twice a year. In those days, most people couldn’t even afford to make overseas calls to their immediate family members, but these two cousins, who never once mentioned the other in conversation, spoke twice a year!
Rewrite, please. She goes back to Ireland and realizes how much she has accomplished in two years—and I don’t mean her svelte figure, suntan, and stylish clothing. Revisiting Ireland helps her appreciate her own inner strength, and she resolves to go back to Brooklyn and get her accountant’s degree. The Jim diversion makes no sense and I dislike Eilis for having fallen so unbelievable out of character.
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In a nutshell, if you loved the movie, don't read the book.Read more