Long Island by Colm Tóibín

Colm Tóibín’s new novel, Long Island, reunites readers with Eilis Lacey, the heroine from his wildly successful novel Brooklyn, published in 2009. It is a favourite of mine and many Readings customers, too. I was excited not only to read this new novel but also to be given a chance, or should I say excuse, to return to Brooklyn; a beautiful, quiet work that deserves all its praise. I encourage readers to do the same.

Twenty years have passed since Eilis left Ireland and returned to Brooklyn to resume her life with her husband, Tony Fiorello. Eilis is living in Long Island with her husband and her two teenage children. Tony’s dream of building five houses on a piece of land with his brothers has come true and Eilis is ensconced in the Fiorello compound. However, a shocking discovery quickly upends the life they have built and sends Eilis back to her hometown of Enniscorthy.

This is the same town that Tóibín grew up in and has been the setting for many of his novels. It has changed in the last 20 years, but only slightly. The rumour mills are still running hot, but decorum and standards have slipped somewhat. The residents of the town are fixtures in each other’s lives, yet they remain ceaselessly wary and curious about one another.

Many of the characters from Brooklyn make an appearance in Long Island, only now they are deep into middle age. While the former is told exclusively from the perspective of Eilis, here Tóibín widens the net to include those of Nancy and Jim. Tóibín is masterful at drawing characters while you’re not even aware it’s being done. The portrait of Tony’s family is so strong and real to the reader, yet Tóibín achieves this so effortlessly.

This is, like Brooklyn, a quiet novel. But the lives of its characters are so enthralling, the writing so elegant and empathetic to their plight, that I had a hard time putting this book down. It is a heartbreaking novel, and always surprising. I strongly recommend it.

Cover image for Long Island

Long Island

Colm Tóibín

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