The Yellow House
by Patricia Falvey
Center Street (February 15, 2010)
The Yellow House delves into the passion and politics of Northern Ireland at the beginning of the 20 century. Eileen O'Neill's family is torn apart by religious intolerance and secrets from the past. Determined to reclaim her ancestral home and reunite her family, Eileen begins working at the local mill, saving her money and holding fast to her dream. As war is declared on a local and global scale, Eileen cannot separate the politics from the very personal impact the conflict has had on her own life. She is soon torn between two men, each drawing her to one extreme. One is a charismatic and passionate political activist determined to win Irish independence from Great Britain at any cost, who appeals to her warrior's soul. The other is the wealthy and handsome black sheep of the pacifist family who owns the mill where she works, and whose persistent attention becomes impossible for her to ignore.
I was brought up surrounded by family who spoke of our Irish heritage. One of my most treasured possessions is a shamrock charm that my grandfather picked out for me when I was a teenager - I still make sure to wear it proudly every St. Patrick's Day and on days when I'm feeling especially sentimental. The Yellow House offered a spectacular view of Northern Ireland in the early 1900's, while the country was in the midst of The Troubles: when Catholics and Protestants were divided between a desire for an independent Ireland and British rule. I feel as if I have a little more insight into the history of my family after having read the book.
Eileen O'Neill was brought up by her father to be a warrior, having been instilled with the stories of how her great-grandfather took back their home from the Sheridan family. The book described horrible circumstances under which Eileen had to pick herself up and ensure that the family that remained was able to stay together and was provided for. Her strength and spirit wer admirable - I loved the character that Falvey created.
The Yellow House was a story of love, perseverance and fighting for what you believe in, regardless of how others may speak of you, or of risks to your life. I was impressed how Falvey successfully wove Irish history into such a personal family story. Eileen O'Neill Conlon was a warrior in her own family, but she also symbolized many warriors throughout Ireland.
The contrasts between characters Owen Sheridan and James Conlon were remarkable. Each was on the opposite side of the political spectrum, each chose a different way to fight for what they believed in, and most importantly each man pulled Eileen's heart and soul in a different direction. I enjoyed the love triangle that was created between Eileen and the two men, but I believe more importantly that the historical backdrop of the novel would not have been successful had it not been for the ideological struggle between the men.
The Yellow House was a well written novel - from the first page I could hear the lilt of the Irish brogue ringing through the dialogue. I highly recommend the book to lovers of historical fiction, lovers of Ireland, and lovers of strong women characters.
The Crowded Leaf
I received a copy of this book from Hachette Book Group to review as part of the Manic Mommies Book Club.
Blog Note: I am an Amazon Associate. I will make a small profit if you purchase a book after following one of the links in this post. Profits will be used to support giveaways and site maintenance.