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Brooklyn: A Novel | [Colm Tóibín]

Brooklyn: A Novel

It is Enniscorthy in the southeast of Ireland in the early 1950s. Eilis Lacey is one among many of her generation who cannot find work at home. Thus when a job is offered in America, it is clear to everyone that she must go. Eilis heads for unfamiliar Brooklyn to a crowded boarding house. Slowly, the pain of parting is buried beneath the rhythms of her new life - until she begins to realize that she has found a sort of happiness.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Colm Toibin's Brooklyn is a portrait of immigration with all the grand scheming stripped away. Eilis Lacey liked things just fine at home in Ireland, and what she leaves behind is not the slow horror of the potato famine but the depressed economy of the 1950s. Her adventure is produced by a banal lack of choices and executed with the circumspection of a person fully aware of how dangerous and lonely the world is away from her mother's kitchen table.

The novel's style reflects this restraint. Toibin never writes two sentences when one will do, and the narration, by Kirsten Potter, is beautifully expressive without relying on actorly tics. When she performs Eilis' dialogue, she deftly turns the rising inflection and ironic pacing of a County Wexford accent into an expression of Eilis' uncertainty and reserve. Eilis' American co-workers and boyfriend speak in flat, friendly, percussive tones. You can hear their sureness of place and purpose, and feel Eilis' relief when she's surrounded again with voices like her own.

Eilis leaves her family behind in Enniscorthy on the urging of her glamorous older sister and a priest that the family has enlisted to smooth the way for her. She lands in Brooklyn with a job in a clothing store already arranged for her and takes a room in a boarding house where the manners and morals of all the single women are under constant scrutiny. She works in the shop, attends night classes at Brooklyn College, eats dinner with the other lodgers, and on Fridays attends the dance at the parish hall. Each of these elements of her new life is significant because it stands over a void of dislocation. The simplicity of the prose and the purity of the narrative's focus magnify these small accomplishments — the moments of emotional equilibrium, the certificate in bookkeeping that will move her from the shop floor to the offices upstairs — into the towering emotional achievements that they are. In Brooklyn we watch the ordinary, terrifying work of dismantling a life and building it up again from nothing. —Rosalie Knecht

Publisher's Summary

It is Enniscorthy in the southeast of Ireland in the early 1950s. Eilis Lacey is one among many of her generation who cannot find work at home. Thus when a job is offered in America, it is clear to everyone that she must go. Eilis heads for unfamiliar Brooklyn to a crowded boarding house. Slowly, the pain of parting is buried beneath the rhythms of her new life - until she begins to realize that she has found a sort of happiness. As she falls in love, news comes from home that forces her back to Ireland, where she finds new possibilities that conflict deeply with the life she has left behind in Brooklyn.

©2009 Colm Tóibín; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Tóibín's genius is that he makes it impossible for us to walk away." (The New Yorker)
"Slowly, equably, and without malice, Eilis exacts a bittersweet revenge for the expatriation she never intended—or, rather, one unfolds for her unsought, organically. … [Tóibín] shows no condescension for Eilis’s passivity but records her cautious adventures matter-of-factly, as if she were writing them herself in her journal." (New York Times Book Review)
"Eilis is almost a parody of 1950s femininity. … The ending of Brooklyn is a masterpiece of quiet reflection, bringing up deep emotions submerged under the placid exterior and giving the novel an ache that will linger for days." (Christian Science Monitor)
"Tóibín’s tributes to old New York, both in landscape and disposition, beautifully reflect on a time past, but it’s Eilis’ universal struggles with matters of the heart that make this novel such a moving, deeply satisfying read." (Entertainment Weekly)

"[Kirsten Potter] produces the American characters without flaw and delivers the general narrative at a nice, easy pace." (Washington Post Book World)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (289 )
5 star
 (64)
4 star
 (96)
3 star
 (86)
2 star
 (30)
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 (13)
Overall
3.7 (111 )
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 (35)
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 (25)
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1 star
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Story
4.1 (103 )
5 star
 (45)
4 star
 (31)
3 star
 (21)
2 star
 (4)
1 star
 (2)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Kathy Bedford, TX, United States 06-08-09
    Kathy Bedford, TX, United States 06-08-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    727
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    4688
    132
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    Story
    "Great Story"

    Toibin put an interesting twist on the Irish immigration story and did it very well. Excellent narration as well.
    Can't wait to listen to more of his books.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Dearborn, MI, USA 06-30-09
    Thomas Dearborn, MI, USA 06-30-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "Disconnect between Brooklyn and Ireland"

    I enjoyed the Irish voices and the experience of coming to America, as seen through a Foreigner's eyes. I was disappointed not so much that the main character had little character. The author was unconvincing in setting the reader up to understand eillis' behavior toward her marriage and American Husband. The ending also left me wondering.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Whitney Los Angeles, CA 06-16-09
    Whitney Los Angeles, CA 06-16-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    122
    6
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    "Good but just depressing ending"

    The book was well written and well read, just the last part of the book made me angry at the character and ended rather depressingly.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    V. T. Carson Connecticut 07-29-09
    V. T. Carson Connecticut 07-29-09 Member Since 2004

    Audiobook Raven

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Pale theme in the hands of a fine writer"

    I admire Colm Toibin's novel, The Master, and some of the short stories in Mothers and Sons but I find the theme of Brooklyn too tame or domestic. It took me quite awhile to realize that the time frame is after World War II, not after World War I. The author's insight with respect to the workings of Irish families and the portrait of Brooklyn in the early 1950s is worth the price of the book but the characters seem too constrained.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    sam Dardanelle, AR, United States 11-24-14
    sam Dardanelle, AR, United States 11-24-14 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
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    "good story, weak reader"

    As much as I like the book, the almost amateurish quality of the reading was a huge disappointment. It's like story time with the town librarian reading aloud to us. I just finished listening to Juliet Stevenson reading The Paying Guests and the contrast in quality was almost immeasurable.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen Gerardin Berkeley, CA 10-16-10
    Stephen Gerardin Berkeley, CA 10-16-10 Member Since 2007

    BJ

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    20
    1
    Overall
    "Wonderful idea for a book"

    Started out strong then it felt as though the author lost interest and had to finish it to get to something important.
    Nice early development of characters. Could have been a good story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judy Spokane, WA, USA 03-31-10
    Judy Spokane, WA, USA 03-31-10 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    14
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    "Disappointing"

    This book had so much potential. The story was a great immigrant story of an Irish girl coming to America, but fell so short in the end. In some cases, the story felt a bit rushed. The reader did an amazing job though and made one want to listen to the story and left one wanting more.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eileen New York, NY, USA 07-21-09
    Eileen New York, NY, USA 07-21-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    1
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    "\Brooklyn"

    i listen to audible when i drive and this book had no suspense or depth of character. the ending was bogus and if you drive an dlisten this is not for YOU!

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brenda Rowlett, TX, United States 07-30-12
    Brenda Rowlett, TX, United States 07-30-12 Member Since 2010
    ratings
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    2
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    Story
    "Brooklyn reviewed by a woman"
    What would have made Brooklyn better?

    If a woman had written this book it is obvious that the real feelings would have been easily clarified. Men should never write books about women.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Colm Tóibín again?

    Probably not.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Kirsten Potter?

    Kristen Potter is very good.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Brooklyn?

    The constant inabllity to make a decision.


    Any additional comments?

    Colm needs to write about men I'm sure a good topic matter would come more natural.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michele Fresno, CA, United States 06-16-09
    Michele Fresno, CA, United States 06-16-09 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
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    31
    11
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    "Better Use of Time"

    I can't believe I actually listened to this entire book. Shallow, vapid, and predictable. But, when driving for hours it was better than nothing.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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