REVIEW: Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn

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13 October

Gala Theatre

Gabriel Brown

Every time I’ve been reviewer-in-residence at Durham book Festival, there has been one event that I look forward to the most. This is usually the event that I have the most prior knowledge of. This year, it was the Brooklyn event with Colm Tóibín.

Chaired by Professor Stephen Regan, who made this chat nice and conversational (perhaps a bit too conversational at times for me, personally), this event was a nice way to conclude my time as a reviewer this year.

As Brooklyn was this year’s Big Read, with the Gala talk followed by a screening of the film adaptation (a film which, previously, I had the opportunity to watch pre-release and interview the cast), I expected there to be a lot more focus on the story itself but it was more of a general chat. I didn’t mind this too much, though I fear it may have ever so slightly alienated some of the audience, myself included, who were there because of Brooklyn.

However, it was great to hear about some of Colm’s other work, and there was sufficient amount of Brooklyn coverage that I was not left wanting. As is quite standard, there was a reading, and I always appreciate hearing an author read a book of theirs in their own voice. It gives me an idea as to how they imagined it being read. Colm read a great little segment from Brooklyn that I remember quite well from the film, so it was nice to see how the film had been adapted from this.

I appreciated the film trivia massively and these discussions were by far my favourite part of the talk. For example, I learned Colm had a cameo in the film, and that he had always thought that the story of Brooklyn was, in his words, “too quiet” to be a film – that he had never envisioned it being a film until he was approached about it. Furthermore, he asked specifically for Nick Hornby to adapt the screenplay, and his one big ask for the production was to hire a specific singer whom he had in mind.

Once again, the Durham Book festival has provided a highly enjoyable event. I would have even liked the talk to last half an hour longer perhaps, however I understand the film screening was planned to follow straight after this. This brings my time as a reviewer this year to a close. Durham is a great city, and the book festival brings a liveliness to it that, for me, is unrivalled in other cities. Being a reviewer-in-residence has given me the opportunity to explore my passion for films, and I look forward to attending the festival again next year.

This work was produced by participants on our Durham Book Festival Reviewers in Residence programme, a cultural journalism programme run by New Writing North Young Writers. Reviewers in Residence gives aspiring journalists aged 15-23 the chance to review books, attend events and interview authors at Durham Book Festival. For more information about New Writing North Young Writers visit the New Writing North website.

Photo copyright Marion Botella