Reader's Comments

The Yellow House

By Patricia Falvey

PBR Book Review:The setting for this debut novel is Northern Ireland in the early 1900’s. The story spans 20 years and covers WWI and Ireland’s struggle for independence from British rule. This backdrop of war and internal strife shows how families are torn apart by religious and political differences. The main character Eileen is a strong and passionate young woman who fervently follows her dreams. Life is not always kind to her but she continues to move through it and grow stronger. She has two love interests and is torn between them. They are complete opposites. One is a political activist; a rebel fighting for Home Rule, the other is wealthy and privileged, a Quaker and a pacifist. This cunning approach pulls the reader in emotionally and fairly presents both sides of the conflict. It also shows the perspective of both the wealth and the poorer working class people. I have a new found appreciation for Ireland’s political and religious turmoil during these years. The story is interesting from the start but not far into the book you don’t want to put it down. The historical portion of the book is well researched and nicely balances fictional characters with real life events and figures. I recommend this book to those who enjoy historical fiction and anyone who likes a good saga.

Talking Points: This is a beautifully written novel that shows how life’s forces can help shape a person. The journey of the young female protagonist has many turns, each changing her slightly and bringing her closer to her true self. It’s a nice blend of family drama, wartime struggles and romance. The author presents rich historical details of Ireland during the early 1900’s as the country struggles for independence. WW1 also takes its toll on the country and the characters. Many complex family issues are also presented in this book.

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*Other Books by Same Author: “The Yellow House” is this author's first novel.

*Discussion Questions

1. How do you think Eileen’s life would have been different had misfortune not visited her family?

2. Were Da’smessages to Eileen regarding the O’Neill legacy helpful or harmful? How did they shape her character?

3. Was Frankie’s attitude towards the O’Neills justified–even if it hurt Eileen?

4. Was the Quakers’paternalistic attitude towards their workers ultimately helpful or harmful?

5. What did you think of Mary Galway? Was she a feminist, or anti-feminist?

6. How do you think James’s family upbringing contributed to his obsessive attitude towards the Cause?

7. Was James a villain or a hero?

8. How might Owen Sheridan have been different if he was not a Quaker? Was it conviction or cowardice that brought him home to the Quaker tradition?

9. Why do you think Eileen continued to love James?

10. Was Eileen’s deception of James about the baby justified? Why do you think she did it? How much was she influenced by the Catholic church?

11. Did the Music Men enrich the narrative? Discuss each of their contributions to the story.

12. Did Terrence Finnegan have any moral authority over Eileen?

13. Was Eileen’s decision to save the mill and shoot James justified? Would she have done it if she was not in love with Owen?

14. What was the symbolism of Slieve Gullion?

15. How do you think the partition of Ulster impacted future Irish history?

16. Do you think there will eventually be a lasting peace in Ireland?

Book Summary
From the Publisher: THE YELLOW HOUSE delves into the passion and politics of Northern Ireland at the beginning of the 20th 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.
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