Book Review: Brooklyn


Colm Toibin


272 pages

Eilis is a young woman growing up with her sister and mother in Ireland.  Her father has died, her brothers moved away, and thus it is just the women of the house fending for themselves.  Eilis is unable to find employment in Ireland, so her sister, hoping to give her more opportunities, arranges for Eilis to move to New York.

Eilis initially has trouble with her move to the US.  Understandably, she has trouble acclimating and her homesickness is almost debilitating.  She is then able to enroll in accounting classes and that, coupled with meeting a young Italian man who quickly becomes her boyfriend, causes her homesickness to slowly dissipate.

After Eilis has found her niche in New York, she is forced to travel home for a few weeks to care for her mother.  While she at first feels like an outsider upon her return home, she then sinks back in to her old life.  This leaves her with a huge decision to make; should she stay in Ireland or go back to New York? Eilis is completely torn, and my interest was completely piqued at this point.  I certainly had my choice as to what I wanted her to do (for those of you who have read the book, the choice Eilis made was the one I was hoping she would choose), so I became completely invested.

I must gush now and tell you all how much I adored this book.  It stuck with me for so long after I put it down.  I never thought it would feel so relevant to me, but Eilis’s struggles were so universal.  I could barely put the book down.

A funny aside about this book.  My sister’s boyfriend recently moved here from Dublin, Ireland, so anytime I am reading a book with Irish names or places that I can’t pronounce, I call him.  I am sure he is getting a little weirded out by now, but one night we were at dinner and I whipped this book out of my purse and asked him how to pronounce Eilis.  He said Ah, Colm Toibin–my dad knows him.  Apparently his father is also an author, and he used to go to school with Toibin.  Obviously I was way more excited about this than any normal person would be, so I sat in the booth squealing for a minute.Apparently, his father is also a fan of Toibin.

Anyway, I don’t know that it bears repeating, as you can obviously tell I loved this book.  It will certainly make my Best of 2011 list, and I certainly plan to read more from Toibin.

Other Reviews:

Books in the City

Lovely Treez Reads

You’ve GOTTA Read This!

A Guy’s Moleskin Notebook

Lakeside Musings

Caribous Mom

Shelf Love

Medieval Bookworm

I purchased this book from . . . Borders? Barnes and Noble?

13 Responses

  1. What fun that you had an authentic Irish person for consultation on this book! I really love books on Irish immigrants, and the fact that you are gushing really has me interested now!

  2. I loved this book too! It was the perfect quiet novel for me. Also, how exciting that your sister’s boyfriend’s father knows Colm Toibin! That sounds more distant when I type it out, but it still is pretty cool.

  3. I’m glad you enjoyed this! I loved it too and I also thought Eilis made the right decision.

  4. You didn’t say how to pronounce it, LOL! I would have been so excited too about his dad knowing him!! Sounds like this is a book I need to add to my New York Shelf. I, of course, would want her to go back to NYC probably, but we’ll see!

  5. The audio version was excellent, too! I’ve also enjoyed Toibin’s stories and plan to read his other novels at some point. Thanks for the link 🙂

  6. I love the little personal anecdote! I had an Irish Lit teacher who knew Colin Farrell (not as cool as Toibin, but…) 🙂

  7. What a cool story about your sister’s boyfriend…sometimes it really is small world, huh?

  8. Thanks for linking to my review. I am glad you enjoyed the book. Toibin is a favorite author of mine – I also recommend Blackwater Lightship – it is excellent!

  9. The book sounds fabulous and I love that you have your sister’s boyfriend on call for Irish pronunciations. Most book lovers would understand why you squealed.

  10. Hi there – loved your review of Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn. Would you or any of your readers be interested in putting a question to Colm Toibin about this book? BBC World Book Club on the World Service is interviewing him on 6th July and would love to hear from you. If you could email me at 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 Toibin 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. Please do get in touch.
    Best wishes,
    BBC World Book Club

  11. […] by Colm Toibin, reviewed at Books in the City, Reviews by Lola, Jules’ Book Reviews, Lynne’s Little Corner of the World, All the Books I Can Read, and […]

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