The Yellow House

Written by Patricia Falvey
Review by Nanette Donohue

Family legend says that Eileen O’Neill’s childhood home, the titular yellow house, was won back in a game of cards from a Protestant family that stole it from the O’Neills. That same Protestant family, the Sheridans, now owns the spinning and weaving mills that employ many of the residents of the small town of Glenlea. When Eileen’s father is murdered, Eileen goes to work at the spinning mill, where she encounters Owen, the black sheep Sheridan son. The two begin a tense, complicated relationship that affects them in unexpected ways. As the fight over Irish home rule escalates, Eileen finds herself drawn to James Conlon, a passionate believer in the Irish Republic. Her relationship with James, and her involvement in the independence movement, change her life and challenge her beliefs.

Set in the tumultuous years before and after World War I, The Yellow House is an impressive debut that will appeal to readers of Irish family sagas. Falvey skillfully takes major events and reduces them to a personal level, focusing on the effects of World War I and religious unrest in Ireland on one woman and the people around her. Secondary characters, both heroes and villains, abound, and Falvey steers clear of the stock characters that often plague novels set in Ireland. The love triangle between Eileen, Owen, and James, combined with the historical context, provides plenty of tension and keeps the story moving quickly. While some of the twists and turns that Eileen’s story takes are a touch melodramatic, it’s hard not to root for her as she fights to reclaim her birthright.