Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey

Note: Per FTC regulations, this is a review of an advanced reader copy that I received free from the Hachette Book Group. This book will be released to the public on February 15th.
I admit, with my lack of Irish heritage and slim understanding of Irish history, that perhaps I was not the best audience for Patricia Falvey's The Yellow House.  I honestly couldn't be certain if the plot of the book was something that was common in families during the time of Ireland's "troubles" or if Falvey merely packed in many elements of that time period in order to create and maintain the drama and forward movement of the story.

Eileen O'Neill is the daughter of a farmer and a housewife in the early part of the twentieth century, growing up in a happy home with her older brother Frankie and younger sister Lizzie.  The lovely mountain Slieve Gullion can be seen from her home, and Eileen finds comfort and joy in the mountain, thinking of it as a mother figure.  All is well in the yellow house, with love and music, until the day Lizzie goes to the fever hospital and their mother comes home without her; Lizzie is gone.  As the rumblings of the Irish revolution come nearer, Eileen's mother leaves them with Frank in tow, and later suffers a breakdown which puts her in the hospital for the duration of the book, with Frank's Protestant grandfather raising him.  When her father is killed by English loyalists, Eileen flees with her baby brother Paddy and takes job in a mill in a nearby town to save money to fund her dream of one day reclaiming the Yellow House for her family and reuniting them.  

This is where I felt the need to suspend my disbelief.  Eileen becomes a labor reformist, forges a relationship with the wealthy son of the Protestant mill owner,  becomes a talented fiddler with the Ulster minstrels, marries a Catholic seminarian-turned-rebel, participates in IRA activities, swears in Gaelic, and gives birth to a daughter named Eoife (Eee-fa).  I'm sure if tattoos were in vogue back then she'd have had a shamrock tramp stamp.  

It is an engaging story; I just found it a tidge unbelievable.  More outlandish things happen, and there is a happy ending.  Falvey's writing is beautiful, almost lyrical, but as I said, I had no prior knowledge of the subject matter.  However, Falvey intrigued me and I'd like to read more on the topic.