Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

by |May 21, 2010

Brooklyn is Colm Tóibín’s most beautifully executed novel to date. Like The Heather Blazing (1992) it is an intimate portrait of a sad life, built up steadily from simple descriptive sentences, laid down with precision at a controlled pace. 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.

Brooklyn: It is Ireland in the early 1950s and for Eilis Lacey, as for so many young Irish girls, opportunities are scarce. So when her sister arranges for her to emigrate to New York, Eilis knows she must go, leaving behind her family and her home for the first time. Arriving in a crowded lodging house in Brooklyn, Eilis can only be reminded of what she has sacrificed.

She is far from home – and homesick. And just as she takes tentative steps towards friendship, and perhaps something more, Eilis receives news which sends her back to Ireland. There she will be confronted by a terrible dilemma – a devastating choice between duty and one great love.

Biography:

Irish novelist and journalist Colm Tóibín was born in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford in Ireland in 1955 and was educated at University College Dublin where he read History and English. After graduating, he lived and taught in Barcelona, a city that he later wrote about in Homage to Barcelona (1990). He returned to Ireland and worked as a journalist before travelling through South America and Argentina. He is the author of a number of works of fiction and non-fiction and is a regular contributor to various newspapers and magazines. He was awarded the E. M. Forster Award in 1995 by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

He is a member of Aosdána, an Irish organisation founded to promote the arts.His first novel, The South (1990), set in Spain and rural Ireland in the 1950s, is the story of an Irish woman who leaves her husband and starts a relationship with a Spanish painter. It was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and won the Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for First Book. Eamon Redmond, the central character in The Heather Blazing (1992), is a judge in the Irish High Court, haunted by his own past and the history of modern Ireland. The book won the Encore Award for the best second novel of the year. His third novel, The Story of the Night (1996), is set in Argentina during the Falklands War.

His novel, The Blackwater Lightship (1999), describes the uneasy relationship between a grandmother, her daughter and granddaughter, brought together by a family tragedy. The book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction.

His non-fiction includes The Sign of the Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe (1994) and The Irish FamineThe Penguin Book of Irish Fiction (1999) (with Diarmaid Ferriter). He is editor of (1999). His new book, Love in a Dark Time: Gay Lives from Wilde to Almodovar (2002), consists of a number of essays some of which had previously been published in the London Review of Books. In 2002 he became a Fellow at the Centre for Scholars and Writers at New York Public Library, enabling him to research the life of Irish dramatist Lady Augusta Gregory for his book Lady Gregory’s Toothbrush (2002).  The Master (2004), is a portrait of the novelist Henry James. It was shortlisted for the 2004 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and in 2006, won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Colm Tóibín lives in Ireland. Mothers and Sons (2006), is a collection of short stories. His latest novel is Brooklyn (2009), winner of the 2009 Costa Novel Award.

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About the Contributor

John Purcell (aka Natasha Walker) is the author of The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy published by Random House Australia. The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings reached the top ten on the Australian fiction charts and Natasha/John was the tenth highest selling Australian novelist and third highest selling Australian debut author in 2012. The trilogy has since sold over 50,000 copies in print and ebook and has been translated into French and Polish. John has worked in the book industry for the last twenty years. While still in his twenties he opened John’s Bookshop, a second-hand bookshop in Mosman in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Now he is the Head of Product and Chief Buyer at booktopia.com.au.

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