The Last Days of Ellis Island Summary and Reviews

The Last Days of Ellis Island

by Gaëlle Josse

The Last Days of Ellis Island by Gaëlle Josse X
The Last Days of Ellis Island by Gaëlle Josse
Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

New York, November 3, 1954. In a few days, the immigration inspection station on Ellis Island will close its doors forever.

John Mitchell, an officer of the Bureau of Immigration, is the guardian and last resident of the island. As Mitchell looks back over forty-five years as gatekeeper to America and its promise of a better life, he recalls his brief marriage to beloved wife Liz, and is haunted by memories of a transgression involving Nella, an immigrant from Sardinia. Told in a series of poignant diary entries, this is a story of responsibility, love, fidelity, and remorse.

Winner of the European Union Prize for Literature.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Josse powerfully evokes the spirit of the 'huddled masses' who landed on America's shores while creating a memorable portrait of a man torn between his commitment to his difficult job and the longings of his heart. Duty and desire clash in the melancholy reminiscences of a former Ellis Island immigration officer." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Josse's powerful work finds the human heart within a career bureaucrat." - Publishers Weekly

"Gripping…The Last Days of Ellis Island is an absorbing novel in which beloved dreams are fast to shatter." - Foreword Reviews

"Gaëlle Josse visits Ellis Island and constructs an intimate, collective geography, the story of one man intertwined with those of thousands of others. She rejects exaggeration and pathos, instead embracing the joy of invention and facing the crudeness of what happened head-on." - Transfuge (France)

"It's always somewhat pointless to attempt categorization, especially in the impalpable and subjective domain of artistic creation. However, can't we call The Last Days of Ellis Island the most beautiful text Gaëlle Josse has ever written, one in which the alchemy of the preceding ones reaches, on a completely different subject, a kind of completion?" - La Croix (France)

"I devoured this gem of a novel, which manages to perfectly capture both a singular moment in time and an entire universe of hope, longing and heartbreak. Brilliantly constructed and beautifully told, The Last Days of Ellis Island is a timeless—and timely—exploration of compassion and regret." - Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, author of The Nest

"Intimate, alluring and at times haunting, The Last Days of Ellis Island imagines the closing hours of Ellis Island's existence as a gateway for the hopeful through the eyes of its last caretaker. Josse examines with care how life, no matter where you spend it, is a weave of wonderful moments and sad ones; moments we are insanely grateful for and moments we wish with everything within that we could take back. Eloquently and skillfully rendered." - Susan Meissner, bestselling author of A Fall of Marigolds

"The Last Days of Ellis Island is a tragic story of a man who spends forty-five years working as an immigration official on Ellis island. Josse masterfully weaves this moving story of love and loss around the larger historical context of the massive wave of immigration arriving in the U.S. in the early 1900s. Beautifully written, The Last Days of Ellis Island is compelling historical fiction with a dash of magical realism added in." - Vincent J. Cannato, author of American Passage: The History of Ellis Island

This information about The Last Days of Ellis Island shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Betty Taylor

Very Powerful
Only 96 pages, but so powerful!

As the book opens, the Bureau of Immigrations Commissioner, John Mitchell, is preparing for the closure of the immigration inspection office on Ellis Island. In his solitude, he reflects on the 45 years he has worked there. Feeling a need to rid himself of the past, he begins writing a diary. He has nine days to exorcise the ghosts of the island’s many temporary inhabitants that haunt him. The author writes: “I am the captain of a phantom ship that has been abandoned to its ghosts.”

Through the author’s elegant writing, I could sense the emotions Miller experienced each time a new group of immigrants disembarked. “I was always moved at the thought of all these people who had risked their lives on board for a fate as yet unknown.” Miller bared his soul, revealing the struggle he went through the two times he let his personal interests override the rules of his position. “There was too much love, too much pain on those pages.”

This book makes me want to return to Ellis Island and see it this time through the eyes of John Miller. I think the author stated it beautifully in saying the Museum of Immigration now “guards the memory of all those exiles”.

I received this book from the publisher with no expectation of a positive review.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

More Information

Gaëlle Josse holds degrees in law, journalism, and clinical psychology. Formerly a poet, she published her first novel, Les heures silencieuses (The Quiet Hours), in 2011. Josse went on to win several awards, including the Alain Fournier Award in 2013 for Nos vies désaccordées (Our Out-Of-Tune Lives). After spending a few years in New Caledonia, she returned to Paris, where she now works and lives. Josse received the European Union Prize for Literature for The Last Days of Ellis Island, along with the Grand Livre du Mois Literary Prize.

More Author Information

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more historical fiction...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Code Breaker
    The Code Breaker
    by Walter Isaacson
    What makes humans human? It's a mystery that has inspired philosophers and driven scientific ...
  • Book Jacket: Genesis
    Genesis
    by Guido Tonelli
    Popular science books represent an important niche in non-fiction. They build a bridge between ...
  • Book Jacket: Buses Are a Comin'
    Buses Are a Comin'
    by Charles Person, Richard Rooker
    Charles Person was just 18 years old in 1961 when he became the youngest of the first wave of '...
  • Book Jacket: Firekeeper's Daughter
    Firekeeper's Daughter
    by Angeline Boulley
    Angeline Boulley's young adult novel Firekeeper's Daughter follows 18-year-old Daunis — ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Girl in His Shadow
by Audrey Blake
The story of one woman who believed in scientific medicine before the world believed in her.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Theater for Dreamers
    by Polly Samson

    A spellbinding tour-de-force about the beauty between naïveté and cruelty, artist and muse.

  • Book Jacket

    Crossing the River
    by Carol Smith

    A powerful exploration of grief that combines memoir, reportage, and lessons in how to heal.

Who Said...

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A S I T closet

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.