Monday, August 08, 2016
The Yellow House, by Patricia Falvey
The relationship between Ireland and England has many twists and turns, and those turning points have often seemed elusive to me. Thanks to The Yellow House, I have a better understanding of the convoluted story of pre-partition Northern Ireland in the early years of the twentieth century. Relationships, even those between countries, begin due to circumstances such as proximity, but they evolve--and live or die--largely based on the passions of the people involved. Here, the life, times, and passions of Eileen O'Neill draw us in, but (and this is why I love well-researched, detailed historical fiction) we see the larger picture from 1905 to World War I and beyond through Eileen's experiences.
Eileen's passions are her parents, brothers, sister, and later her best friend, a man (or two men?), and her daughter. Like the O'Neill warriors she emulates, she fights for her loved ones with all her being. The story begins in 1905; soon, the house that her great-grandfather Hugh had won back from the British a hundred years before is lost again. As her family is pulled apart, Eileen begins fighting at a young age to bring the family together again in her beloved Yellow House despite losses that cannot be remedied.
As Eileen, a Catholic, begins working at the age of 15 in a linen mill owned by British Protestants, as the Irish Home Rule movement grows, and as World War I unfolds, she must navigate the multitude of injustices and conflicting loyalties that roil her homeland. Despite fear, confusion, and oppression, she must determine the motives of those close to her. Most of all, she fights to remain strong and true to her own family. When secret alliances and past history begin to surface, she must decide whom she can trust and how she can move forward in a shifting landscape.
The Yellow House, critically acclaimed, was Patricia Falvey's first novel. If you enjoy it, you might also want to check out her second novel, The Linen Queen, as I plan to, which takes us further into the twentieth-century travails of Northern Ireland. I also like the novels of Frank Delaney, which offer more exploration of the times and people of Ireland. The lyrical quality of his books, such as Ireland, comes through most strongly when listening to the stories as audiobooks.
Review by Lynn K