Book of the month: and April's Irish winner is... BROOKLYN by Colm Toibin (discussion Tue 27 April)

(93 Posts)

The magnificent by Colm Toibin has shot to the top of April's poll, with Sebastian Barry in second place.

We'll get together here on Tuesday 27 April 8.00 - 9.30 pm to discuss the book.

I am contacting the publisher now to see if Mr Toibin might be able to join us on the night so fingers crossed...

And for anyone new to bookclub, here is how it works

raggie Mon 19-Apr-10 21:28:43

Oh sorry!!! blush

raggie Mon 19-Apr-10 21:32:04

In my defence, I didn't actually reveal any of the plot.

OliviaMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 19-Apr-10 21:34:19

grin@Fairfield

Rolf Tue 20-Apr-10 12:30:27

I loved this book. When I read it I was thinking that nothing much happened. No burning helicopters! But I got more and more gripped and anxious to see what Eilis would decide, and in the months since I read it have wondered what happened to her, what sort of life she had, as though it was part of my own family's story. It reminded me of that jolt you get when you see pictures of your parents in their youth, and realise that they had lives before you existed. I live in Liverpool so am surrounded by that generation of Irish immigrants, their children and grandchildren, and felt as though I was reading their family history.

vanitypear Thu 22-Apr-10 00:11:17

This was a wonderful book - was gutted to finish it and felt sad for days afterwards (still do when I think of it). Her dilemma and the intervention which ultimately brings about Eilis's decision are masterfully plotted. Beautifully done. I felt a great sense of tragedy - I was really drawn into the book - it made an ordinary story very poignant and special. Loved loved loved it.

I'm still tracking our author down - he sadly can't make tomorrow as he's on a plane (I think volcano-related). We're finding a date for a separate webchat in the next couple of weeks.

So please hang on to all those thoughts, and bring them along tomorrow night, 8-9.30. And hopefully I'll be ale to announce when he's coming on.

See you tomorrow...

Oh, and May's Book of the Month winner has been announced...

deepdarkwood Mon 26-Apr-10 11:21:44

Loved the book (read by coincidence, & have just spotted this thread) - but will be at RL book club tomorrow night talking about A Fine Balence (which is amazing, incidentally...) Will look up the thread after you've all been erudite....

OliviaMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 26-Apr-10 12:23:12

Oh yes a fine balance is AMAZING! Has fairfield had her baby yet, does anyone know?

Evening everyone

Lots of opinions already here, I'm going to kick off by asking who loved this book and who didn't. I absolutely adored it, thought it was deeply moving and memorable, yet I realise that it is very simple.

What id everyone think?

raggie Tue 27-Apr-10 20:02:18

I really enjoyed it too, although I can appreciate where those who didn't are coming from. As you said Tilly - simple and straightforward. But that's part of its charm, no?

For me, the characters were so vivid and the places so well-drawn and the time too (I imagine) that I was just caught up in almost 'living' the story that I just couldn't put it down.

I read whilst in a remote corner of Wales, cut off from internet, on a short holiday, mainly while bfing my daughter. I think where/when you read this book might have an effect on enjoyment of it.

DecorHate Tue 27-Apr-10 20:04:57

Are we starting yet? Like Fifi I loved the way the writer made me change my mind about what Ellis should do - didn't want get to return home in case she got trapped there but then wished she could have stayed....

I had bought this book before it got picked as I was interested in the subject matter - one of my grandfathers emigrated from Ireland & lived in Brooklyn in the 1920's. I wonder how different it would have been then?

I found the first part of the book (before she leaves Ireland) brought back many memories to me - I grew up in Ireland in the 70s and I think small towns hadn't changed much since the era when the book was set - the petty snoberies, everyone knowing everyone else's business, even the bit about only shopping in certain shops!

DecorHate Tue 27-Apr-10 20:08:24

Sorry, took me so long to type that that you have all started!

I was surprised that was such an easy read, hadn't read any of Colm Toibins books before, I agree with whoever said they thought it could have been a female writer...

titferbrains Tue 27-Apr-10 20:10:22

Really enjoyed this. I read it on holiday, and towards the end I had to keep stopping for childcare, meals etc. and found that I couldn't concentrate on anything while my brain was busy trying to decide what she would do in the end!

Although it was quite predictable that the grumpy chap (forgotten name) was going to start being all nice once she was back, I still got very caught up in the suspense of the final chapters.

redandgreen Tue 27-Apr-10 20:11:13

I loved it. I think the characters are incredibly well drawn and the author (on the whole) doesn't resort to pantomime villans to move the story on. So rare to get such a gripping story out of 'normal' characters.

raggie Tue 27-Apr-10 20:13:47

I think it was because they're such normal characters that the story was gripping, in some ways. That and the fact that it's so believable. The turn of events - albeit with some dramatic licence! - could have happened to lots of people from that era, who left their homes and made new lives overseas. Not just from that era/Ireland either come to think of it...

titferbrains Tue 27-Apr-10 20:16:35

I liked the simplicity of the dialogue and Eilis' witty little comments.

I also was amazed at how Toibin captured the era - partic the bits set in the shop, describing the mood, the service, the keen Italians and their wish to please everyone, and Eilis' descriptions of the well dressed black women who came in to buy tights - fascinating.

DecorHate Tue 27-Apr-10 20:17:42

My grandfather also returned to Ireland - was supposed to be temporary but he never went back to the US. My mother said his heart was always in Brooklyn but I suppose she and I would not be here if he had gone back...

redandgreen Tue 27-Apr-10 20:22:36

Absolutely. When you some up Eilis' story - emigrate, get married, come home for a funeral and start getting off with a local boy - she sounds callous. But I identified with her at every turn - particularly when she went into denial mode and couldn't make a decision at all. So true when you know you're going to have to tell someone something they're not going to like.

titferbrains Tue 27-Apr-10 20:25:29

I was about to say that I struggled to understand how she could snog some dull pasty irish bloke after the witty italian, but actually have just remembered similar, erm, transgressions while at uni blush so story is very real, I guess!!!

I agree that the suspense drawn from normal characters was wonderful - no special effects, or silly plot twists, or over descriptive writing. I just wonder HOW he does it. I kept trying to figure out why I was so gripped. We all recognise those feelings of homesickness or indecision or familial guilt, but he managed to express them so purely somehow.

Phrenology Tue 27-Apr-10 20:32:24

I thought that small town Ireland was beautifully scripted.

The comment about her being home from the US and therefore more exciting was totally indicative of the times.

Before she went away, she could not for the want of a better expression even get arrested yet she arrives home, more self posessed than when she left and that in itself made her worthy of attention. Pathetic.

I thought he drew her confusion between Brooklyn and home very well and indeed I rather think she may have stayed if it had not been for the shop keeper whose name escapes me. (have lent the book out)

When she summoned her to her parlour which she was not worthy of two years previous and made it very clear that she spoke to Ma Kehoe on a regular basis, I think in that moment small town Ireland crystalised for her and she realised she would always spend her life in a goldfish bowl.

Whereas if she went back to Brooklyn, then she and her Dh could move out to Long Island and be themselves.

I had mixed feelings about this book. I loved the details, the bits about the boat, the shop she worked in, her housemates and the details about the dance.

I felt really adrift from Eilis though. I feel as if she doesn't really want anything that she has, like she's just not that bothered, but I'm not sure if that's because she is supposed to be written like that, part of me thinks she is, but it really feels as if there is some part of the character missing. I felt like it might be on purpose, but it just made me not care about her.

Laugs Tue 27-Apr-10 20:33:58

Yes it was the simplicity and clarity that made it for me. There wasn't a single word out of place but the feeling that there was so much beneath the surface that was inexpressible. He did the characters justice by not trying to put that into words.

Laugs Tue 27-Apr-10 20:34:35

x-posted obviously!

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