Long Island by Colm Tóibín - review by Róisín Lanigan

Róisín Lanigan

Beyond Brooklyn

Long Island


Picador 288pp £20

Have you heard the joke about the Irish boomerang? The funny thing about the Irish boomerang, the saying goes, is that it never comes back. It just spends all of its time singing songs about how it wishes one day it could. 

The diasporic experience is built into Irish identity. To be Irish is to leave and move to England or America or Australia. Eilis Lacey, the headstrong young protagonist of Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn (2009), followed that tradition, emigrating to America in the 1950s from Tóibín’s hometown of Enniscorthy, Wexford. At the end of the novel, Eilis makes the decision to stay in New York and settle down with her Italian-American husband, Tony Fiorello, leaving behind her family and the prospect of love with the laconic local heartthrob Jim Farrell.

In Brooklyn’s sequel, Long Island, we revisit Eilis in the mid-1970s as she grapples with the question of whether she made the right choice. Although Eilis and Tony seem like the perfect nuclear family from the outside, they have become atomised. Her Italian in-laws are watchful and stifling. They don’t

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RLF - March