About the Author
• Birth—May 30, 1955
• Where—Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland, UK
• Education—B.A., University College, Dublin
• Awards—Costa Award
• Currently—Dublin, Ireland
Colm Toibin is an Irish novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, journalist, critic, and, most recently, poet.
Toibin is currently Irene and Sidney B. Silverman Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University and succeeded Martin Amis as professor of creative writing at the University of Manchester. He was hailed as a champion of minorities as he collected the 2011 Irish PEN Award. In 2011, he was named one of Britain's Top 300 Intellectuals by The Observer, despite being Irish.
For further information about Colm Tobin, the Lit Lovers website has an excellent overview of his life and work.
1. ‘Brooklyn depicts the immigrant experience as essentially defined by loss
and regret.’ Discuss.
2. ‘While Eilis is a character of genuine integrity she is unable to confront the
conventional expectations of a woman’s role.’ Do you agree?
3. ‘Toíbín resists offering readers a simply uplifting story but provides a more
complex portrait of his protagonist, Eilis Lacey.’ Discuss.
4. ‘The nature of personal freedom is the true subject of Brooklyn.’ Discuss.
5. ‘By returning to Brooklyn and marriage to Tony, Eilis recognises the
limitations to her independence.’ Do you agree?
6. ‘The twin settings of the novel, Enniscorthy and Brooklyn, play a significant
role in Toíbín’s narrative.’ Discuss.
7. ‘The loneliness and isolation that afflicts Eilis is shown by Toíbín as the
typical products of modern life.’ Discuss.
8. ‘Eilis’s personal transformation is shown to be ultimately futile at the end
of the novel.’ Do you agree?
9. ‘Loss of identity and the need for reinvention are the characteristic
experiences described in the novel.’ Discuss.
10. ‘Without her family and disconnected from a sense of home, Eilis
becomes a ‘shadow’ and a ‘ghost’. What enables her to regain her sense of
identity in Brooklyn?’
A great resource for information about Colm Toibin, articles, background on emigration, Ireland, immigration and America in the 1950's.
About the Text
Set in Brooklyn and Ireland in the early 1950s, when one young woman crosses the ocean to make a new life for herself.
Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America -- to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood "just like Ireland" -- she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.
Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.
By far Tóibín's most instantly engaging and emotionally resonant novel,Brooklyn will make readers fall in love with his gorgeous writing and spellbinding characters.
Interview with the author
An interview with Colm Toibin about Brooklyn
Toibin reads from Brooklyn
Colm Toibin reads from Brooklyn at the Wheeler centre in Melbourne.
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
Questions for study and discussion.
What does the title tell us about the significance of place in this text?
Describe five to ten differences between Brooklyn and Ireland during
What are the conflicts in Brooklyn? What types of conflicts or
challenges (physical, moral, intellectual, or emotional) does Eilis face?
How does Colm Tóibín reveal character in Brooklyn? Choose five
characters to focus on. Find and discuss two quotes for each
Some of the themes in this novel are family, new beginnings,
multiculturalism, immigration, economic depression, gender roles,
relationships, personal growth and racism. What other themes can
Chose at least three themes from Brooklyn. How do they are they
explored through the plot and characters? Include four to five quotes
for each theme.
Is Eilis Lacey consistent in her actions? Is she a fully developed
character? How? Why?
Which of the characters do you find likable? Are these people you
would want to meet?
Which of the characters do you find unappealing. Why do you think
Tóibín includes them?
Discuss some of the symbols (significant objects, reoccurring motifs
etc.) in Brooklyn.
Does the story end the way you expected? How? Why?
What is the central/primary purpose of the story? Is the purpose
important or meaningful?
How essential is the setting to the story? Could the story have taken
place anywhere else?
What is the role of women in the text?