June 21, 2009

Brooklyn - Colm Toibin


Brooklyn is the latest book from Irish author Colm Toibin - and the first book of his that I have read.

Brooklyn is the story of a young Irish woman, Eilis Lacey, who migrates from her small Irish town to Brooklyn in the 1950's in search of employment and opportunity. This decision is in some ways forced upon Eilis by her older sister, Rose and her mother who clearly want her to achieve but are desperate for her to stay at home with them at the same time. There are hints and glimpses into the life of Eilis's family - her 3 older brothers have all moved to England for work and her father died in the not too distant past - but despite these glimpses we don't really learn all that much about the extended family.

When Eilis arrives in Brooklyn she is struck by culture shock and homesickness and the narrative of this section of the book is all about her attempts to fit in and make a life for herself in America.

This book is so simple in many ways - the story of a girl who moves away, she goes to work, goes home to the boarding house she resides in with other young women, she goes to night classes and she goes to the parish dance on a Friday night. All things that I imagine would have been quite common place for young, single women living in Brooklyn in the 1950's. When I write this description here I think how boring it all sounds - but I did not find this book boring at all. Eilis has to make many choices over the course of the novel and it is these decisions and the ultimate choices that connect the reader to Eilis and her story - I wanted to know what she was going to do - and I also thought about the roads not taken - how the story could have been so different. The writing flowed beautifully - I really felt as though I was sitting down with a good friend listening to the story of their life. I will definitely be looking out for more of Toibin's work.

14 comments:

savidgereads said...

Oh another review thats made me want to read this book even more than I did before. I have to get my hands on a copy its as simple as that.

Paperback Reader said...

Brooklyn is a popular title amongst bloggers recently and I should have my request available to read in a month or two - I am itching to read it! It will be my first Toibin novel also, although I do have The South around somewhere...

JoAnn said...

I just posted a review for Brooklyn on Friday! It's funny how we both mentioned that the description makes it sound a bit boring, when it's actually far from it. Can't wait to read more Toibin!

http://lakesidemusing.blogspot.com/2009/06/brooklyn-novel-by-colm-toibin.html

adevotedreader said...

The plot summary of Brooklyn does sound a bit ho-hum but so many bloggers have enjoyed this I will have to try it anyway. I enjoyed Toibin's wonderful short story collection Mothers and Sons, and hope the writing in this is as good.

Serena said...

This immigration story would hook me, simply by being about an Irish woman. Thanks for another great review.

Danielle said...

I really liked this as well. I thought the story was so well executed--I was glued to the pages! Someone mentioned to me a New Yoker review where the author said it's about being an immigrant in two different places (I'm not saying it as well)--which is true--she doesn't feel quite at home in NY and when she goes to Ireland again--not quite home there either. I'm happy to read so many good responses to it!

Karen said...

Hi savidgereads - I would definitely get a copy asap - a fantastic read.

Hi Paperback Reader - I'm very keen to read more of Toibin's work now. I think I will move on to The Master next.

Hi JoAnn - Thanks for mentioning your review - I will definitely go and check it out. Glad to hear you loved it as well.

Hi adevotedreader - I definitely think it is the style and competence of Toibin's writing that makes this book so wonderful. I think you have to be pretty skilled at what you do to make such a simple story (in many ways) be so compelling.

Hi Serena - then I would think this book would be a great one for you!

Hi Danielle - I like how you have said this is a well executed story - that's exactly what I think to.

Kim said...

Brooklyn sounds like just the sort of book I would enjoy, thanks for the great review. I haven't read anything of Toibin's yet, but I will definitely look out for this one.

Iliana said...

Doesn't sound boring at all! I love it when a book makes you feel like you've gotten to know the characters and it sounds like this one does that. Will have to add this one to my list!

Karen said...

Hi Kim - from the sounds of things this seems like a great Toibin book to start with. Hope you enjoy it!

Hi Iliana - That's exactly the type of book I like - sounds like you do too!

Samantha said...

I have just started this one Karen and was happy to see that you enjoyed it. I am loving it already! I would also recommend his book The Master. I read it for bookclub and we all really liked it.

mattviews said...

The book is so smooth like a cup of green tea on the throat. That this novel is uneventful, relatively speaking, really shows Colm Toibin's knack for delineating his protagonist's changes over time in a new country. In the end you'll be thrilled she is completely a different person in terms of the decision she made.

Karen said...

Hi Samantha - I was hooked into Brooklyn as soon as I started it too! I'm on the look out for The Master next...

Hi Matt - what a great description of this on!

Karen said...

Hi there- I came across your review of Colm Tóibín's Brooklyn on your blog, and was wondering whether you might like to put a question to Colm Tóibín about this book? BBC World Book Club on the World Service is interviewing him on 6th July and would love to hear from you. We’re always keen to get questions from readers around the world with both positive and negative criticisms of the books. If interested, please do email me at World.Bookclub@bbc.co.uk as soon as you can with a question about the book (anything - doesn't have to be particularly clever!), we can either arrange for you to talk to Colm Tóibín himself, or have our presenter put your question to him for you. Then you get to hear your question on BBC World Service Radio. The programme will air on 6th August at 11.00hrs on the BBC World Service. Hope to hear from you soon.
Best wishes,
BBC World Book Club