Hauntingly beautiful and heartbreaking, Colm Tóibín's sixth novel, Brooklyn, is set in Brooklyn and Ireland in the early 1950s, when one young woman crosses the ocean to make a new life for herself.
Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the years following World War Two. Though skilled at bookkeeping, she cannot find a job in the miserable Irish economy. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn to sponsor Eilis in America -- to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood "just like Ireland" -- she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.
Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, a blond Italian from a big family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. He takes Eilis to Coney Island and Ebbets Field, and home to dinner in the two-room apartment he shares with his brothers and parents. He talks of having children who are Dodgers fans. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.
By far Tóibín's most instantly engaging and emotionally resonant novel, Brooklyn will make readers fall in love with his gorgeous writing and spellbinding characters.
Eilis went to midnight mass with Mrs. Kehoe and Miss Keegan, discovering on the way home that Mrs. Kehoe was among the parishioners who were roasting a turkey and potatoes and boiling a ham for Father Flood, who had arranged for it all to be collected at twelve.
"It's like the war," Mrs. Kehoe said. "Feeding the army. Has to be done like clockwork. I'll carve what our own small needs will be from the turkey, the biggest one I could get, it'll be six hours in the oven, before I send it off. And we'll eat, just the four of us, myself, Miss McAdam, Miss Heffernan and Miss Keegan here, as soon as the turkey is off our hands. And if there's anything left over, we'll save it for you, Eilis."
By nine o'clock Eilis was in the parish hall peeling vegetables in the big kitchen at the back. There were women working beside her whom she had never met before, all of them older than she, some with faint American accents but all of Irish origin. Most of them were just here for this ...
With deft prose and subtle characterization, Tóibín contemplates whether anyone can ever really return home.
(Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).
Full Review (388 words).
Like Eilis, Colm Tóibín was born in
County Wexford, Ireland. Born in 1955, he was the second youngest of five
children. He graduated from University College Dublin in 1975 and
promptly moved to Barcelona for three years. His experiences in Spain informed
his first novel
(1990). Tóibín returned to Ireland to pursue a masters
but never matriculated. He left academia for a career in journalism, and was
editor of the prominent Irish news magazine Macgill from 1982 to 1985.
He has taught literature and creative writing at Princeton and Stanford Universities, among
others, and currently lives in Dublin.
Along with writing a number of critically-acclaimed novels, Tóibín ...
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