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Brooklyn: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 5, 2009
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Four girls on a trip to Paris suddenly find themselves in a high-stakes game of Truth or Dare that spirals out of control. Learn More
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great easy read. Ending kinda left you hanging. I'm told the movie had a much better endingPublished 8 hours ago by Lisa Nielsen
I loved it. It made me think a lot about the immigrant experience in America, although set in the 40's(?) the themes and emotions are timeless. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Nancy Goltry
Lovely .. Wish the end was more rounded and definitive. Overall a nice story of choices one has to makePublished 3 days ago by Maitreyi Menon
Overall, I enjoyed the book. However the first half was very slow. In the end, I was disappointed in the way the main character handled her decisions. Read morePublished 3 days ago by Scott Walnum
I really enjoyed this story..... had angst.. had joy.... and wish I could know what happened next!!!!!Published 5 days ago by Dr.Peggy