1. What part did Eilis’ sister, Rose Lacey, play in the decision for Eilis to emigrate? Given that Eilis’ three brothers immigrated to Birmingham, England, there was no work in Ireland, and Rose was the surrogate father and breadwinner, was it inevitable that Eilis should emigrate?
2. Before Eilis set off to America from Enniscorthy, she had sensed that people who emigrated there could become rich and lived there happily. What are the reasons behind this preconception? What are Eilis first impressions of America?
3. Eilis’ voyage to America was described in some detail. What did you learn about traveling in 1950s?
4.Eilis was terribly lonely when she arrived in Brooklyn. How did Father Flood and Mrs. Kehoe help with her transition into the American life? How did boarding at Mrs. Kehoe help?
5. In Brooklyn, Eilis’ clothes symbolize her change. How did clothes help Eilis?
6. How does Eilis’ identity evolve throughout the book?
7. Miss Fortini is the supervisor at Bartocci’s and Eilis’ supervisor. Discuss their relationship. What does the bathing suit scene reveal about each other?
8. Discuss Eilis’ personality. What strengths of character does she have? Discuss why she did night school for accounting and what it means for a woman in 1950s.
9. Discuss Eilis’ relationship with her sister Rose. Why did Rose not confide in Eilis about her heart condition?
10. Discuss Eilis’ relationship with her mother, Mrs. Lacey. Was Mrs. Lacey selfish in not asking Eilis about her life in America? What became apparent to Eilis on her arrival back to Enniscorthy?
11. Why does Eilis keep her marriage to Tony a secret from her mother and her friends in Enniscorthy? What does it reveal? Discuss her reasoning.
12. Why Eilis does says she feel like she is falling in love with Tony in Brooklyn, yet when she is in Enniscorthy, she falls for Jim? Given the two men, who do you think she would have chosen if she had not married Tony before she left America?
13.How typical do you think Eilis’ migrant experience in 1950s? Where does she feels she belongs, and where is home?
14. In the end, Eilis returns to America. Do you think Eilis was forced to make this decision because of a sense of duty? What impact did Eilis’ visit to Miss Kelly have on her making the decision? Do you think Eilis showed strength in returning? Or was it weakness?
15. Why do you think Toibin ended the book with Eilis writing a note to Jim Farrell and her leaving for America? What do you imagine would her life be like back in America?
16. Did you enjoy the way Brooklyn was written? Who would you recommend it to?
Check out Brooklyn book review!
Enhance your book club: Listen to some traditional Irish ceili music and eat some Irish food whilst discussing the book.
Learn about Ellis Island and some history of U.S. Immigration. Discuss the difference experiences in immigrants arrival on Ellis Island in 1950s and today.
Here’s a video of Colm Tóibín talking about Brooklyn, immigration and other issues.