Brooklyn (Toibin) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews 
Colm Toibin…is an expert, patient fisherman of submerged emotions…In tracking the experience, at the remove of half a century, of a girl as unsophisticated and simple as Eilis—a girl who permits herself no extremes of temperament, who accords herself no right to self-assertion—Toibin exercises sustained subtlety and touching respect. He 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…In Brooklyn, Colm Toibin quietly, modestly shows how place can assert itself, enfolding the visitor, staking its claim.
Liesl Schillinger - New York Times


Brooklyn is a modest novel, but it has heft. The portrait Toibin paints of Brooklyn in the early '50s is affectionate but scarcely dewy-eyed; Eilis encounters discrimination in various forms— against Italians, against blacks, against Jews, against lower-class Irish—and finds Manhattan more intimidating than alluring. Toibin's prose is graceful but never showy, and his characters are uniformly interesting and believable. As a study of the quest for home and the difficulty of figuring out where it really is, Brooklyn has a universality that goes far beyond the specific details of Eilis's struggle.
Jonathan Yardley - Washington Post


Toibin's brief novel, following his bravura rendering of the life of Henry James in The Master, seems modest at first. A diligent young woman with few opportunities in nineteen-fifties Ireland is packed off by her family to Brooklyn, where she works in a department store, goes to church and night school, and acquires a boyfriend, before a family crisis presents her with a stark choice between her new life and her old one. Within these confines, Toibin creates a narrative of remarkable power, writing with a spareness and intensity that give the minutest shades of feeling immense emotional impact. Seen through his protagonist’s cautious eyes, even hackneyed tropes of Brooklyn life, such as trips to Ebbets Field and Coney Island, take on a subtle strangeness. Purging the immigrant novel of all swagger and sentimentality, Toibin leaves us with a renewed understanding that to emigrate is to become a foreigner in two places at once.
The New Yorker


[E]ngaging.... Toibin has revived the Brooklyn of an Irish-Catholic parish in the '50s, a setting appropriate to the narrow life of Eilis Lacey.... I give away nothing in telling that the possibility of Eilis reclaiming an authentic and spirited life in Ireland turns Brooklyn into a stirring and satisfying moral tale.
Maureen Howard - Signatures, Publishers Weekly


Eilis gradually embraces new freedoms [in Brooklyn].... Toibin conveys Eilis's transformative struggles with an aching lyricism reminiscent of the mature Henry James and ultimately confers upon his readers a sort of grace that illuminates the opportunities for tenderness in our lives.... Highly recommended.
J. Greg Matthews - Library Journal


Toibin fashions a compelling characterization of a woman caught between two worlds, unsure almost until the novel's final page where her obligations and affections truly reside.... The story] of a girl who knows she must fully become a woman in order to shoulder the burdens descending on her.... A fine and touching novel, persuasive proof of Toibin's ever-increasing skills and range.
Kirkus Reviews

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