Set in early 20th century Northern Ireland, the novel begins when Eileen O’Neill’s family is torn apart at the death of her father. The family is split up – her mother winds up in a mental institution and young Eileen is forced to work in the mill. The Yellow House does a wonderful job examining the politics and social consequences of religious discrimination as well as Northern Ireland’s struggle to maintain it’s identity after the English forced a population shift from native Irish to English and Scottish. Young Eileen is the heroine of the story, and her strength and quick Irish temper make her larger than life (although, not likeable, in my opinion). Eileen’s personality made it difficult for me to appreciate the love story Falvey entwines between Eileen O’Neill and her wealthy Protestant neighbor, Owen Sheridan. I certainly couldn’t imagine any man falling in love with her, much less someone whose very class caused her to continually act rudely to him. I did, however, enjoy the story of the beginnings of the Irish Republican Army and her character’s association with it.
This is one of those books that people either love or hate. Falvey is an excellent writer and the story is riveting. I just didn’t happen to care for the main character.
3 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2010