By Colm Toibin
Scribner Book Company, Hardcover, 9781439138311, 262pp.
Publication Date: May 5, 2009
Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the years following World War Two. Though skilled at bookkeeping, Eilis cannot find a proper job in the miserable Irish economy.
When an Irish priest from Brooklyn visits the household and offers to sponsor Eilis in America to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood "just like Ireland" she realizes she must go, leaving her fragile mother and sister behind.
Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and studies accounting at Brooklyn College, and, when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, a blond Italian, slowly wins her over with persistent 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. Eilis is in love. But just as she begins to consider what this means, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her new life.
With the emotional resonance of Alice McDermott's At Weddings and Wakes, Brooklyn is by far Toibin's most inviting, engaging novel.
"A classical coming-of-age story, pure, unsensationalized, quietly profound." -- Pam Houston, O, the Oprah Magazine
"A beautifully rendered portrait of Brooklyn and provincial Ireland in the 1950s... Toibin writes about women more convincingly, I think, than any other living, male novelist." -- Zoe Heller, author of The Believers
"A compelling characterization of a woman caught between two worlds... A fine and touching novel, persuasive proof of Tóibín's ever-increasing skills and range." -- Booklist (starred review)
"[A] masterly tale... There is not a sentence or a thought out of place." -- Irish Times
"Colm Toibin leads a generation of Irish novelists... His generation's most gifted writer of love's complicated, contradictory power." -- Los Angeles Times
"Toibin's prose is as elegant in its simplicity as it is complex in the emotions it evokes." -- The New York Times Magazine
"Reading Tóibín is like watching an artist paint one small stroke after another until suddenly the finished picture emerges to shattering effect." -- The Times Literary Supplement (U.K.)
"A quiet masterpiece." -- The Express (U.K.)
Many of the picks from Fresh Air's book critic look back at tough times from earlier eras, or lives upended by disaster. The best books of the year include a work of nonfiction that reveals the hidden fantasy land of a founder of American industry, and a novel that doesn't apologize for the bad behavior of its characters. Plus, a bonus mystery pick. More at NPR.org
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