By Colm Toibin
(Scribner, Hardcover, 9781439138311, 272pp.)
Publication Date: May 5, 2009
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From the award-winning author of The Master, a hauntingly compelling novel—by far Tóibín’s most accessible book—set in Brooklyn and Ireland in the early 1950s about a young woman torn between her family in Ireland and the american who wins her heart.
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 Tóibín’s most inviting, engaging novel.
Colm Tóibín is the author of six novels including The Blackwater Lightship and The Master, both shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and the winner of a Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His nonfiction includes The Sign of the Times and Love in a Dark Time. He writes frequently for such publications as The London Review of Books and The New York Review of Books. He was a fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers at New York Public Library, and has taught at Stanford, Princeton, and American universities, as well as the New School, in the United States. His books have been translated into eighteen languages.
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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"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.)