Friday, March 05, 2010

The Yellow House: A Novel

Occasionally an epic story comes along that makes the reader cry at the end of the novel. I am that reader, and The Yellow House is that novel. Spanning the early twentieth century, set in Northern Ireland during the time of the Irish revolution, we follow Eileen O'Neill, warrior, daughter, and sister as she slowly loses everything she loves but learns to rise again. Growing up at the base of her beloved mountain, Slieve Gullion, Eileen knows the terrors she dreams at night do not bode well for her family. When her younger sister dies of Scarlet Fever, her mother loses her mind in grief. When her Catholic father is killed defending their Yellow House from Protestant uprisers, Eileen must survive or perish in sadness. She stands upright as an O'Neill warrior and takes life by the horns.

Growing up in Ireland in the tumultuous 1900s, Eileen O'Neill joins the Cause for the rights of Catholics and all Irish citizens. In 1913 she takes a job working for the Quaker family, the Sheridan's, at their mill in Queensbrook; she also takes up the fiddle, following in her father's footsteps, and it is through these two positions that she meets Owen Sheridan, handsome, privileged, charming, rakish, and safe. When Owen goes to fight in World War 1 Eileen is left confused about her burgeoning feelings, not having ever loved, she doesn't know about Owen. And then she meets James; dark, dangerous, impassioned for the Cause, fighting for his beliefs, for freedom from persecution, for a better Ireland, and she falls for him.

Torn between her inner warrior and her outer womanhood, enveloped in a lost family and heritage, dreaming of the Yellow House and her beloved Slieve Gullion, Eileen is a girl who grows to a woman before our eyes, who marches from the ashes of her childhood and raises her arms in defiance. Trapped between two men, Eileen finds herself.

The Yellow House is a captivating debut, bountiful and beautifully written. The beginning trudges along, but Eileen will capture you quickly after. Her story will make you smile, make your heart pump, make your breath quicken, make you cry. You will hope for the best, and fear for the worst. You will laugh at Eileen and her anger and feistiness, she has a sailor's mouth and the temper to go with it. You will feel her heartbreak and her desire, you will know her anguish and rapturous delight, you will relate to her because she is the warrior in all of us. You will love Eileen, and you will love The Yellow House.

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