Thursday, June 16, 2016

Review - Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

Book Summary

Colm Tóibín’s New York Times bestselling novel—now an acclaimed film starring Saoirse Ronan and Jim Broadbent nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture—is “a moving, deeply satisfying read” (Entertainment Weekly) about a young Irish immigrant in Brooklyn in the early 1950s.

“One of the most unforgettable characters in contemporary literature” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America, 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, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.

My Review - 3 1/2

This was a book club read for me and I think a great one for book clubs that are willing to be open and personal with each other. The journey of Eilis will make you think 'how would I respond, what would I decide, do I make decisions for myself or others', where is home and what does it mean to me and I believe the response to some of these questions would represent your feel and rating of the book.

I enjoyed the character development in Brooklyn and the different parts of the book.

Part 1, we get an intro of Eilis life in Ireland and her journey of sea sickness to Brooklyn. I enjoyed the intro, it showed what immigrants will go through for the betterment of their selves and for family.

Part 2, she arrives and the priest that helped to confirm her living in Brooklyn introduces her to her landlady and helps to settle her in a job.  I enjoyed seeing who Eilis was, a loner that everyone likes in my opinion.  She respects everyone and it shows through her actions.  The only thing I think she did for herself is her accounting studies, this fueled a spark in her.

Part 3 was the longest.  We see Eilis, the Ireland young lady settle in at Brooklyn.  She is past the phase of being homesick and becomes a part.  She meets a young man and they fall in love.  She gains respect over all the other ladies at the house she resides without trying, but being true to herself.  She treats customers with the utmost respect, including the coloured ladies when this change took place in Brooklyn.  The store moments were my favourites, back in Ireland and Brooklyn.  People watching can be so interesting and reading was mesmerizing at times. Tragedy back in Ireland takes place and the decision to go back and visit occurs.

....she felt almost guilty that she had handed some of her grief to him, and then she felt close to him for his willingness to take it and hold it, in all its rawness, all its dark confusion.  Kindle 68%

Part 4 is touching and confusing at the same time.  I was disappointed that she hadn't found herself and was unable to be true to herself.  I was engaged and couldn't wait to see what happened.  You know you are near the ending and BAM, it ends, just like that, the story is over.  It was one of the worst endings ever for me, so much so I immediately hated reading the book and considered giving it a 2 1/2.

It made her feel strangely as though she were two people, one who had battled against two cold winters and many hard days in Brooklyn and fallen in love there, and the other who was her mother's daughter, the Eilis whom everyone knew, or thought they knew. Kindle 79%

I have set with the thought for a few days and I am on the fence with 3 1/2 or 4.  I decided on 3 1/2 because I believe it depends on the reader but I wouldn't know who to recommend to.  The fact that I can see discussion helps, I think it is a great book club read.  I enjoy when authors allow the ending to be open, allowing the reader to make a decision, I truly detested this ending though, I really felt like 'where the hell is the rest'.  The ending was a shock to my system.

I didn't realize this was also a movie.  Here is the trailer. 


  1. I saw the movie before I read the book and it is done very well. I think I enjoyed the book more than you did in part because of it.

  2. I've only seen the movie and although the ending was abrupt I liked it. Of course I might feel different about the book. This one would probably make a great book club book.

  3. I read this in my book group and we had issues with the abrupt ending. The earlier parts of the book were so much better but the return trip to Ireland annoyed me because of her behavior. This is one of those rare instances where I felt the movie was better than the book! The film gives more closure in the end and I wasn't so disappointed with it like the book.

  4. Goodness-- I so hate poor endings! It can spoil the whole story for me. Too bad you encountered this.

    I do want to see the movie. The actress has such an engaging smile and my family is originally from Brooklyn (my grandpa came from Germany to Brooklyn at the beginning of the last century). I moved away when I was 12 and none of my family lives there anymore.

    I have been to, or know of, many of the landmark areas mentioned in the book (and heard stories from my mom of going to Coney Island beach, etc) so I have more of an interest, perhaps, then someone who has never been there.

    Thank, Marce. Probably is a good choice for book clubs because it will divide readers and make good conversation. I will pass on the book but see the movie.

  5. I got curious about this book after I saw the movie trailer. Haven't read it though. Maybe someday. Your review has actually intrigued me about it.

  6. Since reading The Master I have thought that Toibin is among the best writers alive today, and Brooklyn only confirms me in this belief.

    Kevin Elwood


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