Thursday, March 4, 2010
Book Review of The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey
Eileen O'Neill will always remember the lazy summer day when she was just a girl. Her da brought home buckets of lucky yellow paint to celebrate that a hundred years ago to the day, his grandda had won their house in a game of cards from the wealthy Sheridan family. Though her practical ma thought it was a foolish extravagance, she soon joined in the laughter as the family painted the house a sunny color that could be seen from the summit of Slieve Gullion.
The joy of that day soon falls into shadow, however, as religious intolerance, personal tragedy, and devastating secrets seep into the O'Neills' lives and ultimately tear the family violently apart. Young but strong in body, spirit, and passion, Eileen makes her own way in the world, and she is determined to reclaim the Yellow House and bring her broken family back home. Eileen finds work at the local mill owned by the Sheridans - the Quaker family that once owned her childhood home - who are among the few employers in Ulster who don't openly discriminate against Catholics in favor of Protestants. Though her defiance of authority often brings her trouble, Eileen escapes repercussions when she catches the interest of the owner's son Owen, the black sheep in the family.
As civil strife is overshadowed by the advent of World War I, Eileen cannot separate the politics from the personal impact of the conflicts in her life. Her warrior's soul is further encouraged when she meets her friend's older brother, James Conlon. Attractive, charismatic, and a passionate political activist, James is determined to win Irish independence from Great Britain at any cost and by any means. But Eileen also finds herself increasingly drawn to level-headed Owen Sheridan, who believes that peace can never be achieved through violence. As war rages at home and abroad, Eileen finds her actions and choices will change the course of all their lives and give her a true understanding of herself.
Set in Ulster in the early twentieth century, The Yellow House brings to life the dramatic conflicts leading up to the birth of the border that divided the island of Ireland.
Patricia Falvey's first novel, The Yellow House, has been described as firmly and unapologetically on the side of Republican/Nationalist perspective. I didn't feel that this point of view detracted from the novel. Eileen O'Neill is strong-willed, determined, and often excessively stubborn, but these same traits help keep her sane as she faces amazing personal tragedies. The events in Eileen's life are tied to the growing hostilities and political unrest in Ireland. Eileen faces the loss of both her parents and the disintegration of her family and responds by trying to recover their old home, the Yellow House, which represents the life that the O'Neills once had. Eileen's political awareness and willingness to take risks leads her to greater tragedies and disappointments. As Eileen would jump headlong into dangerous situations, I would shake my head, just waiting for the inevitable pain and disappointment.
The Yellow House is the story of Ireland in the early 1900s - it's part historical fiction and part love story. It's a story of hardship, love, loyalty, and hope against all odds.
ISBN-10: 1599952017 - Hardcover $21.99
Publisher: Center Street; 1 edition (February 15, 2010), 352 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:
Patricia Falvey was born in Northern Ireland and raised in Ireland and England before immigrating to the U.S. at the age of twenty. A former managing director with a financial services firm, she now devotes herself full-time to writing and teaching and divides her time between Dallas, Texas and County Armagh, Northern Ireland. The Yellow House is her first novel. You can learn more at Patricia Falvey's website at patriciafalvey.com
Listen to an interview with Patricia Falvey at Blog Talk Radio at http://patriciafalvey.com/events.html
Thank you to Miriam and Hatchette Book Group for this review opportunity!