It is curious that I read this book weeks after reading Delillo's towering masterpiece Underworld and both books take place in Brooklyn, but this one later by one year. Both reference Bobby Thomson's famous home run, Delillo's masterpiece prologue taking place at the Polo Grounds, home to the New York Giants, while Toibin's Eilis is introduced (p. 168) to the national pastime at Ebbet's Field, home to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Ironically Delillo nominated him in 1990 for the E.M. Forster Prize at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which he won.
Toibin has been short-listed twice for the prestigious Booker Prize, but I'm having trouble seeing it with this short novel. He wrote this novel while teaching at Stanford. Toibin is keenly aware in this novel of an Irish presence in New York that has eroded dramatically over the years. Interestingly, Toibin says that to enhance the relation between author and reader, he resists physically describing his protagonists. By not describing them, you make the reader's perception more intimate. The Times article also quotes "The opposite of being English was being Irish. The Irish tradition came from the lead actors' playing the parts of tramps or powerless people and still holding the stage. There was not the English tradition of doing Hamlet the prince....These actors came from nowhere, ther was no nobility about their characters. The only power they had was over the word."