"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

30 November 2016

2016 Book Review #67: The Yellow House

This book was on the "new books" shelf at the town library and I loved the art work on the  cover as well as the little blurb on the jacket.  

What an excellent book and a quick read.

The author is new to me and this is her debut novel. I hope she writes more!


This is a work of fiction but it revolves around a very real time in Ireland.  It touches on the conflicts between the Catholics and Protestants back around World War I time.  It actually spans a period of years, from the time the main character is 8 years old, until she is about 29 years old.  I loved that we, the readers, get to see her grow up and change.

Eileen O'Neill is 8 years old.  Her brother Frankie is 9.  Her little sister, Lizzie, is just a toddler when the story begins.  They are the children of Tom and Mary O'Neill, known as Da and Ma to the children.  They also have a wonderful old Irish setter named Cuchulainn.  They live on a little farm spread out below the mountain known as Slieve Gullion, in the village of Glenlea, County Armagh, Ulster Province.

Eileen is a happy child whom her Da calls a "warrior" as she is feisty and bold.

It is summer and Da brings home buckets of yellow paint for the family to paint the house so it will shine for all to see.  He wants to celebrate the 100th anniversary of when his grandda had won the house in a game of cards from the very wealthy Sheridan family.  The Sheridan family are Quakers.  The O'Neill family is Catholic.  Everyone is having a great time painting the house.

But those happy, carefree days of summer turn into years of hardship.  Soon personal tragedies and civil war as well as devastating secrets, begin to seep into the O'Neill family.  Those things begin to tear the family apart.

Da is in jeopardy of losing his farm due to becoming too ill to work it.

Ma is pregnant again and has another boy whom they name Paddy.

Lizzie gets scarlet fever and dies.  At least that is what the hospital tells the family.  After Lizzie is gone, Ma loses her sanity and must be committed to the insane aslyum wing of the hospital.

  Just before all of that happens, Ma confesses that Frankie is not really Da's son and she takes him to live with her father, a gruff old man who is a poor farmer and who wants nothing to do with the family.  But he does take Frankie in. 

Eileen is alone with Paddy in the world as her grandfather does not want her.  She goes to live with close friends, the Mullins, who raise her and Paddy.  She misses her Yellow House and vows that one day everyone will be back in the house.  She is young and strong and gets a job at the local mill.

The mill is owned by the Sheridan family....the Quakers and the ones who used to own her childhood home.  She is 16 and can get a job there as they don't discriminate against Catholics.  They hire both Catholics and Protestants.  Eileen is often sharp-tongued and defiant and this often gets her in trouble.  However, she gets noticed by the son of the mill owner.  His name is Owen Sheridan and he is considered to be the "black sheep" of the Sheridan family.  He and Eileen begin a friendship.

Soon, the civil war in Ireland is overshadowed by the events in the world....World War 1 has begun. Eileen has political as well as personal conflicts to deal with and it is further enhanced by her friendship and subsequent marriage to James Conlon, the brother of her close friend Therese.  James is a warrior type too and is very passionate about the problems facing his beloved Ireland.  He will do whatever it costs including losing his life, to gain independence from England.  Because of many problems that weave their way into the marriage, including the birth of Eileen's first daughter, Aiofe (pronounced Ee F A), she finds herself drawn to the stable and caring Owen.

Owen believes that violence can never bring about peace.  And peace is what Eileen is craving.She faces almost losing her little house, almost losing her job, and utter betrayal THREE times by James. The final betrayal is when he takes away her little girl to be raised by his sister.  He then leaves to keep fighting.

Meanwhile, Owen and Eileen meet up again and he gets her the job back at the mill.  She then learns the real truth about Lizzie.  Owen promises he will help her.  She becomes pregnant by Owen and is soon considered an outcast among the villagers.  One night, James and his buddies try to  burn down the mill.  And in doing so, Eileen makes a choice to save it.  That same night she gives birth to her 2nd daughter. Much turmoil ensues once James is arrested.  Eileen now has other decisions to make.

Will she ever get her yellow house back?  Will peace find its way into her heart?


This book was beautifully written.  The history that goes along with the fiction part of the story is just enough to give you a taste of what life was like in that early part of the 20th century in Ireland.  It shows the prejudice not only of the two different classes, but of the two different faiths/religions.

Character development was superb. I loved each and every character introduced and there were many.  

There really is a mountain called Slieve Gullion and I have now added that to my bucket list of "want to see" places.

The author pulls a couple of surprises towards the end of the book which I thoroughly loved.  I don't want to spoil it for you so I won't reveal exactly what those are.  There are a couple of them.

The ending is exquisite and made tears form in my eyes.

This book is to be savored.  Here's a quote from the end of the book that I just loved: (it is Eileen's voice)

".....the seed had been planted.  Did I dare even think I could go back there?  Was the dream still alive?  Could I trust God this time? Had this been His mysterious way of answering my prayers, or were the evil ghosts still waiting for me?...." (pg 323, The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey, c.2009)
and this quote:

"I have drawn close to me those things that matter---love, family, and home.  I have left outside the borders anger, fear, and regret.....Now my warrior sleeps while wisdom stands watch. Wisdom is my new companion, a wisdom forged from the fires of battles fought and lost, and life lived.  And my dreamer lies awake, guarding memories past and memories yet to be born.  And so the summer has come again to Glenlea, and time hovers between day and night like a gift from heaven." (Epilogue, The Yellow House, c. 2009)

I liked that in the very end of the book, the author gives a little history lesson on Ireland and the conflicts there.  I only wish I had read that part first.  I learned a lot of facts about the civil war in Ireland.  Things I just never knew!

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 14 and older.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10.


Melanie Lopata said...

I will try this one! Thanks :)

Susanne said...

Sounds interesting. Adding to my library list.