Tag Archives: Brooklyn

Book Club Reflection: Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

7 Jul

As has so often happened with my book club selections, what I liked, everyone else was iffy on or didn’t like. This was one of my favorite books of the year so far and a lot of people felt it fell flat. Sigh.

The majority of us had seen the movie as well as read the book and most of us agreed that the two were pretty similar. It was a nice touch for me after so many movies I’ve seen have strayed so far from their book origins. We had an interesting question from the reader guide that said we should compare the book to the TV show I Love Lucy because the two were set in the same era. It seemed an odd comparison when Lucy was trying to make us laugh and show the funny side of life while Brooklyn was a reality that wasn’t fun at all. The only thing we could really pull from the exercise was how well Ricky Ricardo was received by a television audience that was rejecting Italians and Irish in stores. It seems that Cubans were better accepted than many European settlers.

There is a lot to say about the author. Colm Toibin was born in Enniscorthy, Ireland and set part of the novel there for that reason. This was his sixth novel and he’s written another book, Nora Webster, which employs some of the same characters but is set in Ireland. Many people were surprised that a male author wrote with a very feminine vision, a surprise I expressed in my review. Toibin is heavily influenced by Hemingway and I could easily see that in his sentences and rhythm. There was a lot unsaid that the reader had to infer. Some readers didn’t like that and wanted some more from Eilis. I’m a big Hemingway fan and it was right up my ally. Toibin writes most of his books in an uncomfortable chair with a pen and paper, transferring his words to a word processor later on. Brooklyn, however, was his first book not written longhand, which he composed during a residency at Stanford.

This story resonated with many because while it’s the story of one girl, the things Eilis went through mirror what many immigrants go through. A woman in our group shared her immigration story and said Eilis’s desire to find a purpose in Brooklyn and belong there was something she went through as well. Members of our group who had moved around the country on their own felt the same way. Eilis was a reluctant immigrant, sent to America against her will almost. Rose seems to have sent her away knowing that she herself was ill and didn’t want Eilis stuck at home taking care of their mother but living. The path she followed was set for her, work, school, and later on, Jim. She was very passive in the book and only stood up for herself when Mrs. Kelly forced her hand and she decided to leave Ireland.

We contemplated if Eilis would have stayed and married Jim if she hadn’t been found out. Jim didn’t look her way at all before she went to America, giving her the cold shoulder. She was only interesting when she had a story. She says that she didn’t think Jim could accept her if he ever found out and we think that was true. The relationship she had with Tony was hard for us to understand. Eilis felt, to some, very flat and we wondered why he was so attracted to her. He seemed to like Irish girls but doesn’t really say what it is about them. She seemed attracted to him because he felt safe. She didn’t feel she fit in America but Tony made her belong and she loved him for that. We were bothered that once he was out of the picture, she didn’t even read his letters. We couldn’t decide if it was because it would make her miss him too much or because he was easy to forget.

The edition our library handed out had an excerpt from Nora Webster in the back that brought up a good question. We felt that Mrs. Lacey was proud of Eilis for being successful in America when she returned, but when Eilis left, she was both angry and sad. We wondered how their relationship would be after. The quotes from Nora Webster talk about May Lacey being unable to look at pictures of her daughter and her American husband, much the same way Eilis couldn’t read Tony’s letters. It’s too painful and forces up a lot of repressed memories.

Our next book is another historical fiction, this time from the early 1800s. I’m liking this trend! Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 6-April-2016

6 Apr

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Child44Currently reading: I’ve been able to return to Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe (Half-Blood Prince) by J.K. Rowling for the past few days which has been nice. Even in that short reprieve, I missed Harry. This is my comfort food.
I’ve been able to make some headway with A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin during my workouts. It’s not the best pump-up track, but hearing about all the war feels motivating, haha.
Honestly, I haven’t read much of In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. There hasn’t been a lot of time for me to read on my phone with the vacation time we’ve had. I guess that’s a good thing? I’m enjoying my vacation so I haven’t had a ton of time for my phone.
I just started Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith and haven’t made much progress with it. I thought I’d listen to it when I drove across the state but my husband and I talked instead. Oh well. I’m on disk 1 of 11 still. We’ll see how this goes, I’m not a huge fan so far.

NorwegianRecently finished: I was able to finish Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller while on my vacation. It was really good, I gave it a full 5 stars! I’m excited to talk about this one with the book club.

My review of Brooklyn went up last Thursday and as I told y’all last well, I really enjoyed it! Let me know what you thought.

Reading Next: No plans now. I’d like to finish Harry before I worry about starting anything new. I’m bogged down with audio right n ow so I won’t be picking another out anytime soon.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Challenge Update, March 2016

5 Apr

I keep reminding myself I only have one month left of this life-absorbing class. I’ll be done at the end of April but back at it in early May. I’m praying my next class leaves me with more time for blogging. I miss blogging and reading for my challenges. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in March:

Black Duck // Janet Taylor Lisle
Slaughterhouse-Five // Kurt Vonnegut
Brooklyn // Colm Toibin

I’m still working through a few long ones that I hope to see populate here soon. I said it last month, but I’ll say it again. I’m hopeful next month looks a bit better.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

7/12
This is my challenge to read a book from 13 different time periods. You can read about it hereBrooklyn took care of 1940-1959 for me which is most welcome. I’m surprised I hadn’t filled it already because so many WWII books can go there. I could have chosen Slaughterhouse-Five to fill it, even. Oh well, I liked Brooklyn more.

Goodreads Challenge

11/45
It feels good to be on track with this one! I’ve been worrying about how long I’m taking to get through some titles but seeing ‘You’re on track!’ makes me feel great. I hope to keep this pace (3-4 books per month) going for the rest of the year, it shouldn’t be too hard.

Book of the Month

Book image via Goodreads.com

Book image via Goodreads.com

It’s going to be Brooklyn this month. As much as the ending frustrated me, Eilis was a great character and I really really loved her story. I’m tempted to read more of Toibin’s work and I’m blown away at his ability to write in a woman’s voice.

Added to my TBR

Despite some adds for book clubs, I’m at 138 at the end of the month, down one from last month. I’ve added two worth mentioning here.

  • SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt. I loved the first one and just found out there’s a second. Woo!
  • The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. This is the July book for my book club. We’re planned out all the way until then so I hope to not add much more for a while.

How are your challenges going? I hope you’re killing it. If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge, it’s fun!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

‘Brooklyn’ Movie- Somewhat more of an ending.

4 Apr
Image via Coming Soon

Image via Coming Soon

I’m very fortunate that the good folks at ThinkJam Media contacted me and offered a free copy of Brooklyn on Blu-ray if I would do a review. Sorry to say this is a bit late, but I had to power through the book first! I really enjoyed the book and gave it 4 stars in my review. I watched the movie in celebration of my birthday on Thursday and was really blown away. Beware of spoilers below.

Things I Thought Were Awesome

Tony. He was perfect, just how I imagined him. I had a movie crush on this Tony to be sure. He was a great mix of confident and vulnerable and exactly how I pictured him. He looked the part, too. It was great casing.

Seeing Rose react to Eilis’s letters. These almost had me in tears knowing how the book would end. Seeing Rose miss her sister so much and knowing that Rose was sick were heart wrenching. I may have teared up a few times.

Watching Eilis change. She looks so different from the beginning to the end of the film and I loved that touch. She learned to do her hair and makeup so that when she went back to Ireland, she looked so different from the other girls. It really emphasized how much Brooklyn hand changed her.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

Taking the brothers out. Other than Jack, the brothers didn’t do much in the story. Jack’s main purpose was to ask Eilis to go home and I honestly thought it was a weak excuse in the book. The boys could just as easily have stayed home. (Ugh, gender roles.) It was a clean cut in my mind.

The ending. It was more of an ending, if not the one I would have written. I think screenwriter Nick Hornby knew that moviegoers would want a little more resolution than the book had. Even opening the letters from Tony was enough for me! I knew he wasn’t dead, haha. The scene with the girl traveling to Brooklyn for the first time was a great way of wrapping up and emphasizing how Eilis now belongs in America.

Book image via Goodreads.com

Book image via Goodreads.com

Things That Were Taken Out and I’m Still Wondering Why

The bathing suit scene. I found this scene really disturbing because of how uncomfortable Eilis was. It was well written and I felt the discomfort Eilis experienced. I did think the scene in the book needed more follow-up to it, though, so maybe it’s better that it’s cut. It bothered me a bit that there was a bit of it remaining. I would have cut the whole thing rather than leave the trail that was in the movie.

Mrs. Kehoe and Eilis’s fight. I felt that the fight was another thing keeping Eilis in Ireland. She was unhappy with where she was living and Ireland seemed so comfortable for her. In my mind, it added to her thinking Ireland was home and not wanting to return to New York.

Things That Changed Too Much

Not kissing Jim. I hated this part of the book, but I hate it more taken out. Going back to Tony seem so obvious when she and Jim aren’t very involved with each other. It was too easy without the more blatant romantic connection.

Rose’s death. It was too much to see her on the floor. In the book, she died in bed while sleeping and Mrs. Lacey thought she overslept. The scene in the book was almost too violent for me. I didn’t like it.

Standing up to Ms. Kelly. I thought this was too much for Eilis. She was a passive character so it made no sense to see her stand up to someone like Ms. Kelly. She was too nervous to tell her mother she was married, how is she brave enough to admit it to her old boss? I liked her walking out silently instead.

I’m so glad I got a copy of this movie. It’s one I can see myself watching again. Reader, have you see the Brooklyn movie? What did you think?

Until next time, write on.

Book Review: Brooklyn by Colm Toibin (4/5)

31 Mar

My book club selected this title for later in the summer but I rushed to read it early. I received a copy of the movie in exchange for a review so I wanted to read the book first. My awesome library had a copy available so I figured, why not? I’m glad I got through this book, it was really great.

Book image via Goodreads.com

Book image via Goodreads.com

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

It’s rare for a woman’s voice to be captured so well by a male author. I was thinking all along that I must be wrong and that Colm must be a woman, but his picture says otherwise. Eilis was a great character and I really connected with her. She was practical and smart and I think that’s why I was frustrated with her toward the end (I’ll talk about this later) when I felt she broke that image of herself. I liked how Tóibín described all of Eilis’s friends and acquaintances, letting the reader know how important these people were in shaping her life. There were a few times I felt frustrated at not receiving more closure about these characters. Did Dolores ever adjust to the borders? Why did we learn so much about Frank to have him disappear? What was in the unopened letters? I felt the book needed another 20-50 pages and that was my only complaint.

I found Eilis’s struggle very relatable. No, I’ve never lost someone close to me (trying not to give spoilers) but I understand the obligation she felt. I understood why everyone acted the way they did including Tony and Jack and her mother. It was a story where I felt like I knew what would happen and to an extent, things played out how I thought they would because I could think like the characters. It wasn’t predictable, but I could divine what everyone would be thinking. I hope this comes off as the compliment it is.

Except for a bit at the end, I loved Eilis. I felt like I understood her and her thought process and I could relate to why certain things were important to her. She thought like me and that was reassuring. I liked that she was practical but things like her homesickness were purely emotional and she didn’t know how to control them which I loved. She was very real.

I almost wish Eilis’s story was my story. I can’t imagine the pain she felt at her loss, but I wanted to jump into her life and try it out. I thought she was brave to move away from home but I would have loved to do the same. I thought it was crazy how fast she fell in love with Tony but he was the perfect gentleman and I had a book-crush on him.

Colm Toibin Image via the author's website

Colm Toibin
Image via the author’s website

Surprisingly, I loved the scenes in the boarding house the most. I thought the other girls and Mrs. Kehoe were great and they not only helped set the tone for the book but made Eilis stand out when she needed to (how she was nice to Dolores and gave her direction and a push when she needed it to (to go to the dances). It was a good home base for Eilis to return to and I missed the characters toward the end of the book.

Spoiler alert here so skip this paragraph if you haven’t read it. There were a lot of unfinished threads in the book that I would have liked to see tied up more. The scene with Miss Fortini and the swimsuits raised a lot of questions for me that were ignored in the rest of the book. Eilis didn’t treat her boss any differently even though she was really uncomfortable. Who would act like that? At the end of the book, Eilis doesn’t open the letters from Tony. I was convinced one would say Tony was ill or had died and she’d be returning to no one in Brooklyn. Dolores is dropped from the book with little to wrap up her role in Eilis’s life. I thought a lot of this could have been cut because it made the book seem unfinished and it frustrated me.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Kirsten Potter. I was a little wary at first when I realized the narration would be in an American accent but anything Eilis or another Irish character said would be in an Irish accent. I was afraid Potter would slip up, but she was great. The accents helped me understand when a character was talking and to my American ear, they sounded great. I thought she did a wonderful job.

Eilis always had to do what was right and very seldom had the option to do something for herself. The only thing she did for herself, date Tony, ended up being a sad thing for her mother who wanted her at home. She went to school because it was smart, she moved to America because there was a job and she could support her family. She started seeing Jim because her mother wanted her to. Sometimes, we have to do somethings for ourselves, even when our lives don’t seem to be our own. Tony brought Eilis more joy than she could imagine without him even though it hurt some others. I believe the end was positive though I’ve seen this contested. I think Tony was the right choice for her, even if it wasn’t the easy one.

Writer’s Takeaway: As I said above, I was frustrated by themes and characters that I didn’t feel had closure. As a reader, I want to know more than Toibin gave me. This is the second book in a month where I’ve had an issue with the book not finishing an arc that was started. I’m having one of those times when I want to write my book to show everyone what I mean! If only school were over…

I really enjoyed this book but my structural problems with it means to me that it doesn’t get a perfect rating. Four out of Five stars.

This book fulfilled 1940-1959 in my When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Brooklyn – Colm Toibin | The Lucid Reader
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin | Book Snob
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin | Michael K Freundt
VCE Book Review: Brooklyn by Colm Toibin | Bibliopotamus

WWW Wednesday, 30-March-2016

30 Mar

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


BeastsCurrently reading: Still holding on Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe (Half-Blood Prince) by J.K. Rowling. I’m hoping to pick it up gain soon but I’ve been moving slowly through physical books lately.
I’m back to A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin on audio. I actually have the eaudio and the CD audio right now but I’m going to stick to eaudio so I can listen to it more for a while. I’ll probably switch back and forth a few times before I finish it, haha.
So far, I’ve really enjoyed Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller. The main character, Sheldon it great and I really enjoy the parts he narrates. Maybe I’ll get a bit more reading done on my mini-vacation next week.
I was at my in-laws when I finished my ebook and the next one available was In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. I’m a big fan of Larson’s so I’m excited to read this one. I owned a copy but lent it to a co-worker who got fired before he returned it to me! I think it’s never coming back so the ebook is a good option.

SlaughterhouseRecently finished: Waiting for Easter dinner to be reading, I finished Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I know it took me a long time but I’m just happy to have finished it. I liked it but didn’t love it. I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. Review to come!
In order to meet the deadline of tomorrow, I flew through Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. I’ll post my review tomorrow but know I really liked it but found the ending a little disappointing. I’m looking forward to watching the movie soon because I think I’ll really enjoy the story

Child44Reading Next: I had book club meeting on Monday and we got our next book, Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. I’m not usually big on thrillers but they tend to be fast reads. I’m not sure if this will be a physical or audiobook for me so we’ll see how this plays out.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 23-March-2016

23 Mar

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


BrooklynCurrently reading: I’ve had to put Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe (Half-Blood Prince) by J.K. Rowling on hold for the moment. I’ve got some other reading obligations to attend to first.
I’ve been making a point to get through Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I’m on chapter 8 of 10 so I know I’m getting close to the end. Maybe I can finish this in a week or two? Maybe?
After some intense audiobook switching, I’m still listening to A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin on CD audio in my car. I’m moving along fine and with some other books requiring my attention, this seemed the best decision at the moment.
I put Potter aside to pick up a copy of Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller. My book club is going through this one right now and I’m only a few chapters in but I’m really enjoying it so far. The writing reminds me of my friend John’s style and it’s making me happy to read it. The premise is a bit different than I expected from the title, but I’m enjoying it.
A sudden decision, I’m listening to Brooklyn by Colm Toibin on my phone. I was sent a copy of the BlueRay movie if I would post a book and movie review by the end of the month. Agreed! I was supposed to get a copy of the book in the mail, but it hasn’t arrived and I had an hour and a half drive on Friday so I jumped into it. So far, so good!

Black DuckRecently finished: I finished off Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle AND got the book review posted on Monday! Look at that efficiency! Super proud of myself and glad I was able to finish a book. Woo!

Reading Next: I’ve got enough going right now that there’s no plan on starting another book anytime soon. I’ll get through what’s in front of me first.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!