For what it's worth, the action could have taken place at the end of the 19th century, the beginning of the 20th or during the Great Depression. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I didn't feel the '50s, and I mean that in the good way. I was absorbed by the story and the characters - and Brooklyn and the small Irish town are themselves characters - and if you ask me, the 4th part is what makes everything worth reading. Of course the other 3 are interesting - Eilis' decision to leave Ireland and her family and start anew in U.S., trying to adapt to a new lifestyle, bookkeeping classes, a new sense of fashion and an Italian boyfriend; but it's the pressure, the passion and the torment of the 4th part that give the novel strength. Or so I think. I found myself hating Eilis' mom for being so possessive, blaming Eilis for hastily marrying Tony and being so easily manipulated by her mother and secretly hoping she'd give everything up and stay in Ireland for love's sake. Hats off to how Tóibín managed the whole situation.
There's one thing I didn't get though - Mr. Rosenblum's character. I hoped Tóibín was going to develop it more, it seemed to have potential, he introduced him in a nice and interesting manner and then he dropped everything. Why?