Saturday, February 6, 2010

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin (Review by Nancy Pearl)

With good books, it really is better to read them late, long after everyone else you know already has, than to never have read them at all. At least that’s how I felt when I finished Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn, which got (as I remember) wonderful reviews in 2009, and which my friend Anne Wyckoff just adored (and I always listen when she recommends something for me to read). It’s a supremely quiet and strangely affecting novel, set in the 1950s. Toibin’s subjects are love, and family, and obligation (to yourself and those you love and how to decide which is the more important). It’s one of those books that you have to read slowly, in order to savor the strength and the powerful simplicity of the writing. I had a weirdish experience while I was reading it, almost as though I had entered a large and empty gothic cathedral, where the atmosphere was hushed and all sounds were muted. Yet I realized that almost everything of importance occurs within those four walls, just as so much of what’s important in Tóibín’s lyrical novel is never said at all: almost everything that matters is written, if you will, between the lines on the pages.

I have to tell you, though, that the plot doesn’t sound prepossessing (maybe that’s why I took so long to pick it up and read it). At the suggestion of a priest coming home from his Brooklyn parish to Ireland for a visit, Eilis Lacey leaves her family and friends in her small Irish town and moves to Brooklyn, where she lives in a boarding house with other young women (all Irish), all watched over (and disapproved of) by “Ma” Kehoe, works days in a department store, and attends night school to get a degree in accounting. Along the way, she meets a young Italian man and falls in love with him.

But it’s Tóibín’s economy of language and his uncanny ability to bring to life both Eilis’s home in Ireland and her adopted city that make this novel so very special.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Big Read is Coming!!!

The Byron G Merrill Library is pleased to announce that during March 2010 we will be part of The Big Read: New Hampshire Reads To Kill a Mockingbird. This is a statewide project of the Center for the Book at the NH State Library which will include hundreds of “Big Read” events throughout the state.

All residents of Rumney are invited to participate. The Ladies Book Club will be sponsoring several events. The first, on February 24th at 7 pm, will serve as a ‘kick-off’ and will be an introduction to the book and its historical setting

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) that gives communities the opportunity to come together and read, discuss and celebrate one of 30 selections from U.S. and world literature. In New Hampshire, the program is organized by the Center for the Book at the New Hampshire State Library, which received a grant to coordinate the statewide effort. The Center for the Book chose to focus on To Kill a Mockingbird because of its relevant themes of standing up for what is right, relationships between the races, courage, justice and more.

The Center for the Book at the New Hampshire State Library is one of 268 nonprofits nationwide—including libraries, municipalities and arts, culture and science organizations—to receive a grant to host a Big Read project in this grant round. In 2007, its program “The Big Read: New Hampshire Reads Fahrenheit 451” was only one of two statewide Big Read programs focusing on a single book.

For more information about the Byron G Merrill Library, visit our blog at For more information about The Big Read: New Hampshire Reads To Kill a Mockingbird, visit

The Center for the Book at the New Hampshire State Library was established in 2003 to celebrate and promote reading, books, literacy and the literary heritage of New Hampshire, and to highlight the role that reading and libraries play in enriching the lives of the people of the Granite State. It is an affiliate of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress.

The NEA, which designed The Big Read as a way to restore reading to the center of American culture, presents the program in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. Support for the Big Read is provided by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. Transportation for The Big Read is provided by Ford.