Customer Reviews for

Brooklyn

Average Rating 3.5
( 152 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(29)

4 Star

(51)

3 Star

(34)

2 Star

(26)

1 Star

(12)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

16 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

Touching and Hard to Forget

This Colm Toibin novel is one of the best books I have ever read. I love the delicate, thoughtful prose. The dialogue - such a hard thing for most writers to pull off - feels very real, too, as does the depiction of the immigrant experience. Slowly, patiently, and very ...
This Colm Toibin novel is one of the best books I have ever read. I love the delicate, thoughtful prose. The dialogue - such a hard thing for most writers to pull off - feels very real, too, as does the depiction of the immigrant experience. Slowly, patiently, and very deliberately, Toibin drew me in by narrating from protagonist Eilis' point of view and even reviewing previously-described events from Eilis' perspective. I was lulled into that state you may associate with a good movie: as you become attached to the characters, your stake in a particular sort of ending increases. And herein lies Toibin's skill: he drew me in *twice* -- tricked me with no trickery -- such that his quietly-worded ending delivered me an indescribably powerful punch. Unbelievable.

posted by MJinPA on May 5, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

Oversimplified and not enough plot

This is a simple and gentle story about a young woman's immigration to New York from Ireland in the years after WWII. Much of the novel contains her personal thoughts and her analyzing her future and decisions and life in general. It has an easy pace with lots of desc...
This is a simple and gentle story about a young woman's immigration to New York from Ireland in the years after WWII. Much of the novel contains her personal thoughts and her analyzing her future and decisions and life in general. It has an easy pace with lots of descriptive elements and a vast array of characters.

I really wanted to love this book, but it just seemed oversimplified. I think virtually anyone could have thought up the plot if they were given the basic elements (girl alone in big city, first real job, meeting new people, family crisis). In fact, at one point it felt like an After School Special.

While Toibin depicts the female brain very well in some areas, there are other things that don't ring true. For example, other than her work and classes, the main character seems to have no curiousity about the world in general, or about the exciting new country she has come to. In subjects such as racism and the Holocaust, not only does she know nothing but she has no interest in learning more. And while we hear much of her thoughts, some subjects she doesn't even visit mentally: when her female boss makes a sexual pass at her, she feels uncomfortable but never ponders it again. Yet she ponders so much more trivial stuff all the time throughout the book (what to wear or where to eat)
.
Additionally, while there are some tragic events, overall there doesn't seem to be enough conflict to make the story interesting. All the other characters are almost too good to be true, some crusty or cranky but all of them (excepting Miss Kelly) are big hearted and generous. Money is never really an issue, and things go amazingly smooth for such a huge life change. Again, that seems incredibly unrealistic. And the strange behavior of her fiance's moodiness, her mother's unpleasantness, and her landlady's suspicions are never really explored.

I intend to read more of his work (I have ordered the Blackwater Lightship) and I hope things become a bit more complex and realistic.

posted by SAHARATEA on January 2, 2010

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  • Posted June 5, 2010

    A lovely story

    I enjoyed "Brooklyn" a great deal. The character of Eilis was complex in personality; the story was well-written and it drew me in. The ending was not quite what I expected (a good thing!) The cultural issues of post-WWII Ireland and the US rang true as well. A lovely read!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2010

    Moving Immigration Story

    Brooklyn is a quietly gripping story of a young woman finding her way through the challenges to her identity brought by an unchosen immigration from Ireland. Loss, uncertainty, the personal task of building a meaningful life in unfamiliar circumstances are managed with little guidance beyond her personal reflection - portrayed elegantly and believably by Toibin. The author's compassion for all of the characters gives this personal tale a sense of privileged peeking into the rich interior life of people who worked to live a life they themselves could respect.
    Also, Toibin crafted the story such that surprise can catch you as you look back at Ireland from the cold streets of Brooklyn.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2012

    Another story of the Irish diaspora

    This is the story of a young Irish woman who emigrates to Brooklyn where she find a job and then marries a man who is not Irish. She travels to Ireland for a visit, considers staying there but ultimately realizes what she must do.

    This book is full of personalities - the village residents, the mother, the sister, and the boys. There are surprises and twists and turns. It's a satisfying read, especially for those fascinated by immigrant stories.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2011

    Brooklyn

    Interesting story and very well-written. It was a fast read that kept my attention til the last page.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 8, 2011

    Excellent

    Descriptions here of the emotional life at once supremely tender and unsentimental. The work of a masterful hand.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2011

    Good Read

    I did enjoy this book. Although it seemed to me that the author couldn't decide what direction he wanted Eilis to go (as far as her character went) but nevertheless I enjoyed it and would read it again a few years.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 2, 2010

    Gently draws the reader in....

    "Colm Toibin's "Brooklyn" gently draws the reader into the life of a young Irish girl, Eilis Lacey. There is little work in post World War II Ireland. Her two older brothers had previously been forced to move to England to find work and due to the encouragement of her beloved older sister, Rose, and the sponsorship of a visiting priest from America, Eilis leaves the home she shares with Rose and their widowed mother and travels from a small town in Ireland to seek employment in Brooklyn. What I found most interesting was Eilis' gradual immersion into life in America, which was so different from the life she left behind. Brooklyn truly proves to be the land of opportunity for Eilis. She lives in a boarding house owned by an Irishwoman, finds work at a local department store and attends classes in bookkeeping at night. She meets a young Italian man, Tony, who introduces her to more of life in America. When a tragedy forces her to return to Ireland, she has to decide where her future lies. So much more than just the story of a young immigrant girl becoming an independent woman, Brooklyn itself, and the complexity, diversity and opportunity found there almost seems to be a character in the book."

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Very Enjoyable Journey Between Two Cultures

    This was the first Colm Toibin book I read. Since I finished it, I have bought three others and already read two of them - all in the span of three weeks. His writing flows so easily and you want to read it to get to the end but you don't really want it to end. In this book you really feel you are in the neighborhoods where the characters "live" during the 1950s and you are observing every move they make. The settings are realistic and wonderfully described, the dialogue is genuine, the characters are likable. I would highly recommend it as an introduction to Toibin's writing and suggest readers consider his other books as well such as The Blackwater Lightship and The Heather Blazing - both as enjoyable as Brooklyn and taking place in now familiar Irish towns.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 30, 2009

    A Simple Tale Deftly Told

    One may find the writing very simplistic; however, the author does the difficult task of painting an exquisite story in small but effective strokes. It is easy to care about his characters and their lives. I predict that readers will remember the characters and their stories long after the flashy fiction fadesw from recall. The story resonates with the quiet brushes of truth

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2013

    well written

    Just finished this book and loved the way it was written. The characters were well developed, and very lifelike. Eilis was both likable and easy to hate as she wavered between one man and the other, unable and unwilling to make up her mind which life she wanted. However, the ending left me flat. She may have done the right thing, but I wanted more detail as to what happened after.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2013

    Very engaging book

    Loved this bok. Toibin paints wonderfully detailed characters who live and love in two vastly different but equally well drawn places. The town in Ireland is described with pitch perfect prose. Life in Brooklyn amid the ethnic and often insular world of 1950s Catholic parishes is painted equally well. The inner thoughts and conflicts of the main character ring so totally true, it is a testament to Toibin's talent that he is able to find such a nuaanced female voice.
    This is not an Irish romance novel. Issues are shown with realism...not through rose colored glasses. But if you are looking for a well written, realistic portrait of what life was actually like for Irish immigrants in the 1950s and 1960s -- on both sides of the ocean -- you won't find a better book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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  • Posted November 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Blissful Brooklyn

    Imagine leaving everything one has ever known: family, culture, lifestyle, and moving 3,000 miles across the world. In Colm Tobin's "Brooklyn," Eilis Lacey completes the mind-boggling switch from a small town in Ireland to magnificent Brooklyn, New York. In a story filled with the unexpected and true love, Tobin uses believable characters and attention-grabbing plot to make "Brooklyn" an unforgettable read.

    The novel begins in the struggling Irish economy where qualified Eilis is unable to find a job. An opportunity arises for Eilis to journey to America to find work, but she is unsure of what to do. Leaving her fragile, aging mother, older, sophisticated mother, and the life she expected to live proves to be a heart wrenching and difficult decision.

    However, she makes her choice to leave Ireland and sails off to America. Life immediately takes off when Eilis gets a job and a boyfriend within the first few months of her arrival. As she is finally settling in, tragedy strikes at home and Eilis is required to return to Ireland. The extreme events that occur cause Eilis to question returning to America, her new life, and her true love.

    Throughout the novel Eilis' character grows and the reader can't help but become attached. Eilis starts as an unsure woman who tries her hardest to please everyone around her, but by the end she is confident and takes a stand for herself. This is shown specifically when Eilis returns to Ireland. She causes quite a bit of gossip with her newfound confidence, style, and personality.

    Just like Eilis, the plot starts unconfident and slow, but ends leaving readers attentive and excited. When the story leads to Eilis' decision to remain in Ireland or return to America, the suspense is unbearable.

    Readers are able to connect with not only the characters, but the conflicts they face. "Brooklyn" is an unforgettable book because of the intriguing plot and realistic characters. Colm Tobin captures the readers on page one and never let's go.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Girl meets boy and learns about life.

    It was true to life in the era about shich it was written.

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  • Posted May 15, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Very Sweet Book

    The story was a very sweet, coming of age book.. the main character evolved as the story went on.. an easy, enjoyable read.

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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Brooklyn is an enchanting little novel!

    I very much enjoyed reading this book. Colm Toibin's words made me feel like I was the main character. The only critism I have, was wanting more. I felt the story didn't have enough of an ending. This was a great book for a rainy day and could be finished in a day.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    This book draws you in

    The author draws you in by slowly developing each character. By the middle of the book, you are cheering for the protagonists. By the end of the story, you are wishing for more. The book portrays the hard life of the millions of people who immigrated to America during that time period. It shows the promise of a new life, while exploring the pain of separation, lonliness and isolation from the family and friends they left behind. Colm Tiobin takes you from the quiet, safe, yet poor countryside of Ireland to the bustling opportunistic chaos of New York, showing the pros and cons of both. The author definitely set the stage for a sequel, and I hope that is the plan.

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  • Posted April 10, 2010

    Interesting story line

    As an adult I've moved long distances with my family a number of times. It can be overwhelming & it's not easy. I've always wondered how my grandmothers felt with the journeys they took. Both came from Ireland & were near the same age as Eilis was when she boarded her ship, I think they came to the US alone, too. I wanted to like this book & I did, but I wanted more. I felt that there was more to the story - I found myself going back thru the chapters to see if I missed something. I like this story line. I will read Brooklyn again and I'd like to read more by Colm Toibin.

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  • Posted March 20, 2010

    Brooklyn

    Our book club really discussed this book today and all of us found it delightful. We liked the characters and found them very believable. We also enjoyed the style of writing and look forward to reading more of this author's work.

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  • Posted December 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Something unexpected.

    This was a selection for my bookclub. We read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and thought we would stick with the Brooklyn theme for another month. I am not sure what I expected, but I thourghly enjoyed this book. I was dissatisfyed with the ending, though I find more and more that is not uncommon.
    I enjoyed the depictions of life in Brooklyn and New York when it was still growing and being heavily influenced by the immigrants who moved there. I thought that the interaction between different cultures and races was very interesting. This book was just fascinating I could go on and on about how intriguing so many parts of it were. I did not want to put it down.

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  • Posted October 6, 2009

    The beautiful, lyrical language will have you savoring each line.

    In Brooklyn, Colm Toibin explores the immigrant experience through a shy, but ambitious Irish girl. Elisie is sent to America by her mother and older sister in hopes that she will find the bright future that eludes her in her small Irish town. At first, Eilise just wants to stay close to her family but as she begins to have new, exciting experiences she relishes her new freedom. When she is unexpectedly called home she has to choose between her new life and her old one.

    This book is so much more then the plot suggests. Though the surprise ending keeps you interested, it is the beautiful, lyrical language that will have you savoring each line. Toibin brings to life the the sea voyage in third class cabins, the parish dances, and the stuffy boarding house. The audio version is beautifully read by Kirsten Potter. She does a great job of evoking the homesickness and loneliness of a young girl on her own for the first time.

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