Brooklyn received favorable reviews on publication. Robert Hanks for The Daily Telegraph referenced the immigration experience within the novel by saying, "American reactions to the Irish immigrant experience can easily tip over into hyperbole... Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn is a controlled, understated novel, devoid of outright passion or contrivance, but alive with authentic detail, moved along by the ripples of affection and doubt that shape any life: a novel that offers the reader serious pleasure."
Scribner for Bookreporter said, "In his quietly perceptive prose, Colm Tóibín effortlessly captures the duality that lies at the heart of Eilis Lacey’s story. Brooklyn unassumingly offers both a classic saga of an immigrant coming to terms with life in her new land and an equally appealing story of one young woman’s grasp of a hard-won maturity."
Tóibín was commended on his description of the changes in American society during the 1950s, such as the department store's acceptance of "coloured" customers, Long Island's suburban boom, and the arrival of television. Many applauded Tóibín's measured prose and the calm tone of the novel, though Eilis has been described as being "so passive that you sometimes felt like giving her a good shaking."
In 2019, the novel was ranked 51st on The Guardian's list of the 100 best books of the 21st century.