Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín is our second book in the Bloggers’ Book Club. The book club is growing, we now have more members: Marian, Treasa, Cathy, Marie, Jenn, Catherine, Edie, Jenny, Kirsty, Steph, Una, Susan, Winifred, Ann and Paysan.

As with the last book we read (A Thousand Splendid Suns), Brooklyn wasn’t a book I would have chosen for myself. I really enjoyed A Thousand Splendid Suns, sadly I can’t say the same about Brooklyn.

I haven’t read anything by Colm Tóibín before so I didn’t know what to expect.

The story follows a young lady called Eilis who is living in rural Ireland in the 1950’s. She lives with her mother and sister and is finding it difficult to get work, the only job she can get is on a Sunday in the village shop.

It is decided that Eilis will go to America. A priest has guaranteed her work in a department store in Brookyn. She endures a really awful boat journey to get there. When she is there she is living with an Irish landlady and other singles girls.

As well as working during the day she studies at college in the evenings. Hoping to better herself and get a book keeping job. As the time goes on she meets Tony, who is Italian. They start dating. Everything is going well for Eilis until her sister Rose dies. She decides to go home and spend sometime with her mother. I won’t tell you anymore of the story incase you decide to read the book.

Well now what did I think of it? To be honest I found it fairly dull. I would imagine the differences between Ireland and America in the 1950’s would be enormous and I don’t feel the author made enough of this. There were brief mentions of the various types of people in Brooklyn yet again not much.

I found it monotonous. Eilis got up, went to work, came home, went to college……day in, day out. With not much in between. A couple of mentions of the other girls and the landlady but I would have liked their stories to be told too. Towards the end I found myself getting cross with Eilis, she was so indecisive and didn’t seem to know what she wanted out of life.

Would I pick another book by Colm Tóibín? Maybe if there was nothing else to read!

14 thoughts on “Brooklyn

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  1. Val, I felt like you about this book. I think I will read The Master just to try another of his. I often find it’s hard to like a book if I dislike the main character.

  2. Sorry for another comment but I also wanted to thank you for the kind words you left on my blog about caring for my mother. i appreciate it. Thanks!

  3. Ok, I know I’m not in the book club but I’m going to give a slightly different slant to Brooklyn.
    Yes, Eilis was annoyingly passive and there wasn’t much detail on how different Brooklyn was from Wexford.
    But the book really spoke to me a lot, and I figure it’s because I’m not neutral about the whole process of emigration. I know how bizarre it is to be living in a completely different world, and yet have a monotonous life. I know how you can develop a split personality, one angled towards home, the other in the everyday life abroad. And I’m aware of how deep that split can be, of how easy it is to ‘forget’ one half of yourself. The choice towards the end of the book kept me up, I had to know what happened, I had to know!
    But there were other problems in the book, some things seemed a little too pat and Eilis lacked passion on so many levels. But it got me emotionally anyway!

    1. That’s a great way of looking at it.
      For me though even moving from the UK to Ireland in the early 1990’s was such a big culture shock. So I would have liked there to be much more description about America.

  4. I enjoyed your direct review Val and in many ways I can see your points. I did find Eilis’s character lacking and many of the characters undeveloped but yet, when I thought about her actions at the end, I did think they were credible – in an indecisive, weak sort of way!!

  5. Your last comment made me laugh, Val!

    Throughout the whole book I found Eilis so irritatingly passive. Then, near the end, like Yazar, I *needed* to know what happened. I was practically hurling through the pages – couldn’t read them fast enough. And, when the ending came I felt like flinging the book at the nearest wall in sheer frustration at, yet again, Eilis’s “I’ll just sit back and let whatever happen’s happen” attitude!!

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