Carrie from Books and Movies is hosting a read-along of The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey during the month of March. Since I loved The Linen Queen by Falvey, I really wanted to read this book. I started a bit late, but I’ve caught up now. Here are my responses to the first two sets of discussion questions.
Beware of spoilers!
The Part 1 discussion was held on March 9 and covered the first two sections of the book, “Glenlea, County Armagh 1905″ and “Queensbrook Linen Mill 1913,” pages 1-90.
What do you think of the writing?
I love Falvey’s writing. You can tell she’s from Northern Ireland and Ireland and is familiar with the culture, the history, the legends, and the politics. I especially love and appreciate how Falvey explains the politics of the time, the fight for Home Rule that begins just as World War I is heating up, and how it leads to the Irish War of Independence. I wish I would have read The Yellow House before reading Sebastian Barry’s novel A Long Long Way because he just assumes the reader already knows what was brewing in Ireland at the time. Best of all, Falvey’s explanations fit the narrative, so it doesn’t feel like she’s breaking away from the story to give a history lesson.
What do you think of Eileen’s parents?
What a sad situation! It’s obvious that they love each other, but Eileen’s mother is more sensible and practical, while her father is hung up on the stories of his warrior ancestors and is laid back when it comes to running the farm and supporting his family. The scene in the bank when Mary is determined to pay off the mortgage that her husband took out makes her seem like such a strong woman, so it was surprising to me that she fell apart and withdrew from life when Lizzie died, especially when she had two other children who needed her.
It seems that the book is heading in a romantic direction when it comes to Eileen and Owen Sheridan. What do you think of this potential romance?
There’s something about Owen that I like. Though at this point it seems like it’ll take awhile for their romance to come about, mainly because he’s going off to war and she’s perceived as not being good enough for the son of the mill owner. Of course, Owen doesn’t seem to care about that, as he goes out of his way to make conditions in the mill better after hearing Eileen’s complaints. I can’t wait to see where the story goes!
As we closed the second section, the world is on the brink of the First World War, and Ireland is being torn apart by the fight for Home Rule. Have you learned anything about Ireland or the world at this time period that was new to you?
I first heard the term Home Rule in Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way, but I had no idea what it was all about. Ireland’s politics was pretty complicated at the time, but Falvey does a good job giving readers a basic understanding of the politics.
The Part 2 discussion was posted today and covers the next two sections, “War 1914-1918″ and “Insurrection 1919-1920,” pages 91-164.
Were you surprised by the turn the romantic storyline took?
Not really, because I didn’t think Eileen getting together with Owen was going to happen quickly or easily. There has to be another man involved! I just didn’t expect her to marry James. That part did surprise me a bit.
What do you think of James? Is his treatment of his family – all in the name of the cause – justified?
I didn’t like James from the start. Eileen should have known not to get involved with him when she tried to sit in his chair when he wasn’t even living with his mom and his mom wouldn’t let Eileen sit there because it’s his chair. Never mind the fact that his brother, Fergus, has to sleep outside because the sainted James needs his own room when he comes home from the war. And he doesn’t care enough to have his brother brought back inside! And don’t even get me started about how he ignored Eileen’s choice of name for their daughter and let his crazy mother name her at the baptism. His actions toward his family are not justified; he’s just a spoiled child who has been coddled by his mother and never had to think or worry about the needs of anyone else. Is he really in it for the cause or for the action?
What do you think of Eileen’s reaction to James’ final betrayal – the emptying of her savings account?
I wasn’t surprised by how broken up she was about it, especially considering her mother’s breakdown. She’d worked so hard to overcome all of the blows dealt to her family, pinning all of her hopes and dreams on buying back the Yellow House, and now that dream is gone. What does she have left? Her family is torn apart, she hasn’t really bonded with her daughter, her mother-in-law is a monster, and she obviously can’t count on her husband. I felt so sad for Eileen, yet she shouldn’t really be surprised given what she knows about her husband.
How do you think the author is handling the intricacies of the political situation?
I like that Falvey shows both sides of the battle. Even on the side fighting for Home Rule, there are varying levels of support and involvement. No war is ever black and white, and Falvey highlights the shades of gray with Owen representing the side of the British. Eileen being torn between James and Owen represents how the country is torn, and some people aren’t sure what side to take.
Have you read The Yellow House? What did you think?
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