The Girls of Ennismore
Rosie Killeen and Victoria Bell are the girls of Ennismore, the Irish estate of Lord and Lady Ennis. Rosie is a farmer’s daughter and Victoria is Lady Victoria, the daughter of the estate. When eight-year-old Rosie rescues seven-year-old Victoria’s toy boat, Victoria is determined to make this brave girl her friend and sets in motion a relationship that both sustains and bedevils them as they grow to womanhood. Victoria causes the first rupture in their friendship when they are young women, and she offers Rosie the position of her maid, insensitive to how Rosie would receive that offer.
Both women end up in Dublin, during the Great War and the Easter Rebellion. Home Rule and class are two strong themes. Rosie falls in love with Valentine, the younger son of Lord and Lady Ennis, while Victoria finds herself drawn to Brendan, the estate’s footman turned rebel. In keeping with how their friendship began, Rosie is the stronger of the two in her relationships, but Victoria grows a spine and leaves off nursing society women in a clinic to take up nursing the war wounded and the poor in a public hospital.
Falvey excels at creating atmosphere. The grit and poverty of Rosie’s life in Dublin stand in sharp contrast to the cocoon of Ennismore. The Easter Rebellion is a series of violent, confusing episodes, which leave portions of the city smoking and in ruins. Witnessing it through Rosie and Victoria’s eyes gives it a different perspective, as both women face terrible losses and find their friendship affords them a measure of comfort.
Some broad characters and heavy-handed exposition didn’t prevent me from reading this book in one sitting.