Review 1765: Brooklyn

It wasn’t until I finished reading Colm Tóibín’s latest novel on Sunday that I noticed no review for Brooklyn, which I was sure I had read. I looked back at my old records, and sure enough, I read it in March 2016, but mistakenly removed the flag from my notes that indicates I haven’t reviewed it yet. So, here goes.

Brooklyn is a quiet story set in post-World War II Ireland and New York. It is about the tension between yearning for home and desiring to make your own way in the world.

Eilis Lacey has finished a bookkeeping course and is eager for work, but the only job she can find in her small Irish home town is clerking at Miss Kelly’s store on Sunday mornings. Her brothers have emigrated to England for work, and the family is supported by her older sister Rose, who works as a bookkeeper. Rose wants more for Eilis, so she arranges for Father Flood, a visiting priest, to find Eilis a job in Brooklyn.

The best he can do for her is a clerk’s job in a department store, Bartocci’s. Eilis enjoys her job, but she is frightfully homesick and does not much enjoy living in Mrs. Kehoe’s boardinghouse. Reasoning that being busy will make her less homesick, Father Flood signs her up for courses at Brooklyn College.

Soon, she is making a new life for herself, doing well in her courses, and even finding a boyfriend, a cheerful Italian plumber named Tony. She is finally settling into her new life when something unexpected occurs that takes her back to Ireland and a choice between her two lives.

Written in Tóibín’s graceful prose, Brooklyn is a quiet but powerful character study and exploration of the immigrant experience in post-World War II America.

Nora Webster

The Empty Family

Galway Bay

5 thoughts on “Review 1765: Brooklyn

  1. Jane December 7, 2021 / 11:32 am

    I haven’t read anything by Colm Tóibín and can’t really understand why since whenever I hear him he sounds so wise and thoughtful! I’ve seen the film of Brooklyn and really enjoyed it, may be it should be a resolution for the new year!

    • whatmeread December 7, 2021 / 3:32 pm

      I think I saw Brooklyn right after I watched the movie, and then forgot to post my review!

  2. Davida Chazan December 8, 2021 / 9:37 am

    I believe my husband read this one, but I don’t recall if he liked it or not. He loved Tóibín…

  3. thecontentreader December 10, 2021 / 7:09 am

    I love everything by Colm Tóibín, but Brooklyn is one of his best. The best one is The Master, his historical fiction on Henry James.

    • whatmeread December 10, 2021 / 10:34 am

      Yes, I’ve read that, too.

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