Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
A Novel

73%

36 Critic Reviews

Is it surprising if a seed grows where it lands, once it’s been scattered? Can it be helped? In “Brooklyn,” Colm Toibin quietly, modestly shows how place can assert itself, enfolding the visitor, staking its claim.
-NY Times

Synopsis

Hauntingly beautiful and heartbreaking, Colm Tóibín's sixth novel, Brooklyn, is set in Brooklyn and Ireland in the early 1950s, when one young woman crosses the ocean to make a new life for herself.

Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the years following World War Two. Though skilled at bookkeeping, she cannot find a job in the miserable Irish economy. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn to sponsor Eilis in America -- to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood "just like Ireland" -- she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.

Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, a blond Italian from a big family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. He takes Eilis to Coney Island and Ebbets Field, and home to dinner in the two-room apartment he shares with his brothers and parents. He talks of having children who are Dodgers fans. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.

By far Tóibín's most instantly engaging and emotionally resonant novel, Brooklyn will make readers fall in love with his gorgeous writing and spellbinding characters.
 

About Colm Toibin

See more books from this 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.
 
Published April 17, 2009 by Scribner. 273 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History, Education & Reference, Gay & Lesbian, Biographies & Memoirs, Romance, Travel. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Mar 20 2016
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for Brooklyn
All: 36 | Positive: 26 | Negative: 10

Kirkus

Excellent
on May 20 2010

...descend they do, as a grievous family loss reshapes Eilis’s future (literally) again and again. A fine and touching novel, persuasive proof of Tóibín’s ever-increasing skills and range.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Maureen Howard on Apr 03 2016

Colm 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.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Liesl Schillinger on May 01 2009

Is it surprising if a seed grows where it lands, once it’s been scattered? Can it be helped? In “Brooklyn,” Colm Toibin quietly, modestly shows how place can assert itself, enfolding the visitor, staking its claim.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Christopher Tayler on May 08 2009

Her rejection of her landlady's proffered friendship, and her encounter with her sexually wistful female boss, are handled as delicately as any scene Tóibín has done, although here and there his delicacy doesn't exclude a note of ribald amusement as well as worldly melancholy.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Sam Jordison on Sep 07 2010

The fact that Eilis doesn't always live at a high pitch is just another of the things that make her seem so real. It should also only really be taken as a compliment to the book that one reaches the end hungry for more.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by John Mullan on Aug 20 2010

The narrative is given its voltage by all that Eilis wants not to think about – hence what, on first reading, appears her curious passivity.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Christopher Tayler on May 08 2009

Her rejection of her landlady's proffered friendship, and her encounter with her sexually wistful female boss, are handled as delicately as any scene Tóibín has done, although here and there his delicacy doesn't exclude a note of ribald amusement as well as worldly melancholy.

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Blog Critics

Good
Reviewed by Ted Gioia on May 15 2009

In truth, this is the plight of anyone who moves from one country to another. But Tóibín has captured this sense of the tragedy of choice, the loss that accompanies any decisive moment in our lives, better than any author I have read.

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Examiner

Above average
Reviewed by Diane Scearce on Mar 23 2010

There are moments when the reader might be tempted to shake Eilis to gain her attention, if nothing else but to ask her to think for herself. On the other hand, we may all have felt that at times, our motives and desires were the least effective determinants of our choices. Someone else or other circumstances were more impactful.

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LA Times

Below average
Reviewed by Floyd Skloot on May 03 2009

This straightforward, familiar plot leads to predictable results. After a vivid struggle with homesickness, a time when "nothing here was part of her," when everything seemed "false, empty," Eilis gradually begins to shed old country ways...

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The Washington Post

Good
Reviewed by Jonathan Yardley on May 24 2009

"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...

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The Telegraph

Below average
Reviewed by Robert Hanks on May 07 2009

The lesson is worthwhile, but in laying it out Tóibín seems to retreat from the imagination he shows elsewhere, so that I put Brooklyn down with a sense of dissatisfaction.

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The Telegraph

Good
Reviewed by Thomas Jones on May 03 2009

In Brooklyn, Tóibín gives a powerful account of the perils but also the charms of such a divided existence.

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The Bookbag

Excellent
Reviewed by Paul Curd on Apr 01 2009

I would be surprised if Brooklyn does not make the Booker shortlist, at the very least. I found it thought-provoking, moving and brilliantly written.

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Open Letters Monthly

Below average
Reviewed by Rohan Maitzen on Aug 29 2011

Brooklyn has a certain minimalist perfection, but if I weigh it against, say, Leaving Brooklyn, also a story about self and place, about growing and seeing, about loving and choosing, Leaving Brooklyn is the book for me.

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Open Letters Monthly

Below average
Reviewed by Rohan Maitzen on Aug 29 2011

I’m surprised at my own reaction because I like my books cerebral. Maybe I was in the wrong “head space” myself to appreciate such an austere approach.

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PopMatters

Good
Reviewed by Michael Antman on Aug 18 2009

Toibin’s achievement in Brooklyn is in taking an emotionally inarticulate character and, through the intervention of events, a fortuitous meeting with a fine man, and her own native strength, transforming her into a real and memorable human being.

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About.com Bestsellers

Good
Reviewed by Bess Newman on Mar 21 2016

Tóibín’s previous novels have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and as an author he has won critical praise. Brooklyn demonstrates that such praise is amply deserved.

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Oprah.com

Above average
Reviewed by Pam Houston on Mar 21 2016

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...

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Publishing Perspective

Good
Reviewed by Gwendolyn Dawson on Feb 17 2010

Some readers will find Eilis’s passivity annoying, but this trait seems a natural result of her sheltered upbringing. A more hard-charging personality wouldn’t ring as true. Overall, Brooklyn is an emotionally rich story about leaving home and starting over.

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Lit Stack

Good
Reviewed by Lauren Alwan on Jun 18 2015

The last pages of the novel are satisfying in a way an open-ended conclusion rarely are, due largely to what Liesl Schilling calls Toibin’s ability as an “expert, patient fisherman of submerged emotions.” In Brooklyn, this elevates a seemingly ordinary account to unforgettable.

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Confessions of a Book Addict

Good
Reviewed by Christina on Dec 03 2015

The ending of Brooklyn really made me think and although it felt abrupt, I understood why Toibin ended it there. Tobin definitely had me thinking about that ending for days and Eilis' future. Now I can't wait to watch Brooklyn on the big screen!

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The Mookse and the Gripes

Good
Reviewed by Trevor Berrett on Aug 06 2009

To me, this was not a book about a passive young woman’s failure to make choices; it was a book about the webs we create in our relationships and the pain of loss and the ache — and then relief — of distance. And, to me, the closing lines in the novel hit this underlying theme out of the ballpark.

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ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

Good
Reviewed by Lisa Hill on Jun 18 2009

The melancholy tone of this novel is just perfect, and I liked the open-ended conclusion. The malice of Miss Kelly forces Eilis to act decisively, but what waits for her is not clear.

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Caribous Mom

Above average
Reviewed by Wendy on May 08 2010

This is a novel about an immigrant’s assimilation and coming of age in New York City, but it is largely told through the internal conflict of the main character. Readers who enjoy understated literary novels, might want to give Brooklyn a try.

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https://bookmunch.wordpress.com

Excellent
on Oct 09 2015

Impossible to recommend Brooklyn more. If you only read one literary novel this year… The kind of book guaranteed to send you scurrying off to read other Toibin novels you may have missed (I just picked up The Story of Night from Amazon). Absolutely not to be missed. Essential.

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https://savidgereads.wordpress.com

Good
on Aug 19 2009

For me out of everything it was the prose and also the characters that really made the book the complete joy to read I found it.

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Books in the City

Good
on May 15 2010

I am a fan of Toibin's work and Brooklyn is no exception - it is moving in a very quiet way and stays with you after you read the last page.

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Raging Bibliomania

Above average
Reviewed by Zibilee on Oct 19 2011

I had a very nice experience listening to this book but the ending somewhat diminished my satisfaction of the whole. While there weren’t a great amount of plot elements winding their way through the narrative, what was there was cohesive and believable.

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https://rippleeffects.wordpress.com

Above average
Reviewed by Arti on Dec 12 2015

...the ‘uneventful’ narratives become a quiet and gentle portrayal of a young woman’s journey of self-discovery, a coming-of-age story told with nuance and grace.

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Paulette Alden

Good
on Sep 19 2012

It is so authentic, so unadorned, with the plain, simple prose capturing the characters perfectly. They’re so real...Toibin’s a master.

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https://shereadsnovels.wordpress.com

Good
Reviewed by Helen on Jul 17 2011

I haven’t personally had the experience of living in another country and I’m not sure how I would feel about it, but there were still parts of Eilis’ story that resonated with me and that I could identify with. I loved Brooklyn – and I was happy with the way the book ended too!

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https://kevinfromcanada.wordpress.com

Above average
on May 27 2009

If you have read and liked some of his previous work, I would certainly recommend Brooklyn — while it is not as ambitious has some of his previous books, it is very good writing from an author who knows what good writing is about.

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https://theasylum.wordpress.com

Above average
on Apr 30 2009

The book’s elegance, straightforward narrative and emotional conclusion may well give it an appeal that earns Tóibín a deserved wider readership. Nonetheless I couldn’t help wishing that, like its heroine on board the translantic ship, it might have gone out on deck a little more often, and got its hair messed up a bit.

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https://hungrylikethewoolf.wordpress.com

Good
on Apr 03 2016

Brooklyn is an elegant novel. Toibin efficiently tells the story of Eilis Lacey, a young woman from the Irish countryside, as she matures from girl to woman. In beautiful, but never overwrought, prose, Toibin tells the story of Eilis’s maturing.

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https://musingsofaliterarydilettante.wordpress.com

Above average
Reviewed by musingsofaliterarydilettante on Oct 22 2011

Brooklyn is a quiet and affecting story. Tóibín has a way of depicting the inner emotional terrain of a character with precision.

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Reader Rating for Brooklyn
70%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 1487 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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