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Reviews of Long Island by Colm Toibin

Long Island

Eilis Lacey Series #2

by Colm Toibin

Long Island by Colm Toibin X
Long Island by Colm Toibin
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    May 2024, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the beloved, critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author comes a spectacularly moving and intense novel of secrecy, misunderstanding, and love, the story of Eilis Lacey, the complex and enigmatic heroine of Brooklyn, Tóibín's most popular work twenty years later.

Eilis Lacey is Irish, married to Tony Fiorello, a plumber and one of four Italian American brothers, all of whom live in neighboring houses on a cul-de-sac in Lindenhurst, Long Island, with their wives and children and Tony's parents, a huge extended family that lives and works, eats and plays together. It is the spring of 1976 and Eilis, now in her forties with two teenage children, has no one to rely on in this still-new country. Though her ties to Ireland remain stronger than those that hold her to her new land and home, she has not returned in decades.

One day, when Tony is at his job and Eilis is in her home office doing her accounting, an Irishman comes to the door asking for her by name. He tells her that his wife is pregnant with Tony's child and that when the baby is born, he will not raise it but instead deposit it on Eilis's doorstep. It is what Eilis does—and what she refuses to do—in response to this stunning news that makes Tóibín's novel so riveting.

Long Island is about longings unfulfilled, even unrecognized. The silences in Eilis' life are thunderous and dangerous, and there's no one more deft than Tóibín at giving them language. This is a gorgeous story of a woman alone in a marriage and the deepest bonds she rekindles on her return to the place and people she left behind, to ways of living and loving she thought she'd lost.

Excerpt
Long Island

"That Irishman has been here again," Francesca said, sitting down at the kitchen table. "He has come to every house, but it's you he's looking for. I told him you would be home soon."

"What does he want?" Eilis asked.

"I did everything to make him tell me, but he wouldn't. He asked for you by name."

"He knows my name?"

Francesca's smile had an insinuating edge. Eilis appreciated her mother-in-law's intelligence, and also her sly sense of humor.

"Another man is the last thing I need," Eilis said. "Who are you talking to?" Francesca replied.

They both laughed, as Francesca stood up to go. From the window, Eilis watched her walk carefully across the damp grass to her own house.

Soon, Larry would be in from school and then Rosella from after-school study and then she would hear Tony parking his car outside. She finished work at three so she could be there when they came home each day. It was something she did not want to miss. This would be a perfect time for a cigarette. But, ...

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Reviews

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It's not necessary to have read Brooklyn before picking up Long Island; the latter book stands well on its own. That said, I was happy that I had read Brooklyn first, as I appreciated knowing more of these characters' pasts; Tóibín doesn't waste words delving into their backstories or revisiting the earlier work here. I also think Long Island is the superior book, and some may be a little let-down if reading them in reverse order. Don't get me wrong, Brooklyn is marvelous, but Long Island is on another level. I can't recall another book in my recent reading that I've been so eager to discuss with others, so I have to think this would make an excellent book club selection...continued

Full Review Members Only (728 words)

(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

AARP
The quiet, moving story is told from the perspectives of different characters, each with a heartbreaking inability to express what they truly desire. Note that you don't need to have read Brooklyn to enjoy this follow-up.

Booklist (starred review)
Tóibín writes with unparalleled fluidity and grace. Each character is intricately drawn with psychological acuity, emerging as fully, almost achingly human. Tóibín is a philosopher of the soul. He understands the complex emotions, the dreams, fear, doubt, and hope that drive human activity. Eilis is complicated, fearless, and compelling, much like her brilliant creator. Readers will be thrilled by Tóibín's return to the story of Irish immigrant Eilis Lacey.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
An acclaimed novelist revisits the central characters of his best-known work… Eilis' fate is determined in a plot twist worthy of Edith Wharton…the author is a master of quiet, restrained prose, calmly observing the mores and mindsets of provincial Ireland, not much changed from the 1950s. A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Quietly devastating…Tóibín is brilliant at tallying the weight of what goes unsaid between people…and at using quotidian situations to illuminate longing as a universal and often-inescapable aspect of the human condition. Tóibín's mastery is on full display here.

Author Blurb Douglas Stuart, author of Young Mungo and Shuggie Bain
You don't have to have read Brooklyn to enjoy the many pleasures of Long Island. It is a masterful novel full of longing and regret. A tale of lovers reconnecting, of compromise, and the settling that can come later in life. Intensely moving and yet full of restraint, I was sad to turn the final page.

Author Blurb Naoise Dolan, author of Exciting Times and The Happy Couple
Colm Tóibín's new book is his best yet. It kept me rapt all the way back from Mexico; it reads like the tensest of stage plays, but with all the pleasures of interiority that the novel form allows. I haven't wanted to hug this many characters in a while.

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Beyond the Book

Fish and Chip Shops

Exterior of a fish and chip shopIn Colm Tóibín's novel Long Island, one of the main characters owns a chip shop in Enniscorthy, Ireland – a carryout restaurant that sells fish and chips (french fries in the United States). The dish is a staple of the British Isles, and hundreds of chip shops (aka "chippies") can be found in the Republic of Ireland, where the majority of the book is set. Despite its ubiquity, however, neither fried fish nor chips originate from that part of the world.

In the 16th century, the governments of Spain and Portugal went to great lengths to stamp out any perceived anti-Roman Catholic sentiment. Their targets included not only those professing the Protestant faith, but anyone who came from a Jewish background as well. Many in ...

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Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

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