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Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn: a New York miniature

By refusing to show off, Costa Book award winner Colm Tóibín has achieved something remarkable: a historical novel that transports its readers while its author stays almost invisible

Brooklyn By Colm Tóibín (Viking £17.99)

Colm Tóibín’s remarkable novel, which has beaten Booker prizewinner Hillary Mantel to win the Costa Novel Award, is a story of love and emigration set in 1950s Ireland and America. The history it charts is in many ways a simple one; in outline, it almost seems banal. As the book opens, Eilis, unemployed, unmarried and in her twenties, is living in Enniscorthy with her mother and older sister, her father having died some years earlier and her three brothers having moved to England. When an opportunity arises for her to take a job in a…

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