It takes daring to write a novel whose sole purpose appears to be the re-creation of an obsolete way of thinking, said Leo Robson in the London Times. In attempting to convey “from the inside” the experience of an uncertain young Irish woman in 1950s Brooklyn, Colm Tóibín demonstrates “patience, resourcefulness, and impeccable instincts.” It is a quiet performance, but “it is enough.”
Tóibín’s protagonist, Eilis Lacey, is a “docile and incurious” sort, said Liesl Schillinger in The New York Times. She leaves the small-town comfort of County Wexford, not because of some fire in the belly but because she wishes to do what her mother and older sister expect of her, and “the Lacey women cannot speak plainly to one another” long enough for Eilis to mention that she’d much rather not leave. Eventually, she “exacts a bittersweet revenge for the expatriation she never intended,” but Tóibín focuses less on plot than on how a place “can assert itself” on an individual life.
“There is not a sentence or thought out of place” in Brooklyn, said Bernard O’Donoghue in the Irish Times. It is the award-winning author’s “finest fiction to date.”