Friday, June 21, 2024

BOOK REVIEW: Long Island by Colm Tóibín

I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.

I love Colm Tóibín’s novels. I recently read Brooklyn in preparation for his newest release, Long Island. The new book continues the story of Eilis Lacey, an Irish immigrant to New York, who married an Italian plumber, Tony Fiorello, and thus became part of a large Italian-American family. Now the mother of two teenagers, she has adapted to a life in Long Island, but she has never quite fit in. She hasn’t been back to Ireland in over 20 years, and feels disconnected from both her old family and her new.

The vague dissatisfaction she feels with her life worsens to a crisis when a strange man shows up at her door. He claims his wife is pregnant with Tony’s baby. And when the baby is born, he intends to leave it on the Fiorello doorstep because he doesn’t want it in his house. Eilis doesn’t want it in her house either. Although she makes her wishes clear, the Fiorellos make plans behind her back to take the baby in.

While Eilis’ position may seem harsh, the utter disregard for her feelings highlights her isolation. When she decides to go back to Ireland for her mother’s 80th birthday, it is clear to Tony and everyone else that she might not return.

As Eilis is dealing with this, the novel turns to two of the people she left behind in Ireland. Her one-time best friend Nancy, who is now a widow, and Jim Farrell. Jim owns and runs a tavern. Twenty-years ago, he and Eilis had a summer romance (unconsummated), back when Eilis was newly married to Tony. One can imagine Eilis and Jim picking up where they left off, except for one complication. Jim and Nancy are now involved, and secretly engaged.

Tóibín is able to crawl inside these characters’ heads, making them all tragically sympathetic to start. (At least the three protagonists. It’s difficult to feel sympathy for Tony.)  It is impossible to resolve the triangle without a great deal of heartache. I read along, hurting for the characters, unable to guess how it was going to work out, completely engrossed.

While I think Long Island is the better book, I recommend reading Brooklyn first. It’s also superb and will set the stage for the emotionally compelling sequel. 


  1. I am looking forward to this but won't get to it until July! Glad you enjoyed it. I did enjoy Brooklyn but that was quite some time ago.

  2. I guess this is my romance reader showing, but I don't love that Eilis and Tony didn't swan off into the sunset living happily ever after. I will try and read this eventually though.

    Thanks for sharing this review with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.