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The Yellow House: A Novel Hardcover – February 15, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 239 customer reviews

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Julian Fellowes's Belgravia by Julian Fellowes
"Julian Fellowes's Belgravia" by Julian Fellowes
From the creator and writer of Downton Abbey comes a grand historical novel, with hugely exciting twists and dramatic chapter endings. Learn more | See author page
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A family's future is in the hands of one very brave young Irishwoman in this accomplished debut set between WWI and the growing violence of the Irish war of independence. Eileen O'Neill inherits a lifetime of struggle and heartbreak when her family is ripped apart by war, disease, mental illness and greed. And if civil war and family strife weren't enough to deal with, Eileen is torn between James Conlon, a passionate Irish nationalist, and Owen Sheridan, a British army officer and the son of a wealthy family. As the war's presence in her life intensifies, Eileen continues to weigh her heart's pull against national pride, family loyalty, class divisions and her own spirit. This novel delivers the best of both worlds: secrets, intrigue and surprising twists will keep readers flipping the pages, while Falvey's insight and poetic writing tugs at the heartstrings of the most cynical audiences. (Feb.)
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"Intelligently plotted, with engaging characters, the novel offers a fresh view of the highly dramatic Revolutionary Period in Ireland. The well-researched history illumines but never smothers the storyline. Small details bring the era to life with stunning clarity. The writing is lucid and accessible, occasionally even lyrical. This is a very rewarding first novel and I look forward to reading more from Patricia Falvey." (Morgan Llywelyn, author of Lion of Ireland, Pride of Lions, Grania, The Last Prince of Ireland, and The Irish Country series on THE YELLOW HOUSE)

"THE YELLOW HOUSE is an eloquently written story of the emergence of hope and love in a time of struggle and confusion in Ireland. It avoids the ever-present pitfalls of drowning us in a history lesson while not ignoring the richness of that very history. With her debut novel, Patricia Falvey breathes life back into an Ireland that has nearly vanished from memory. For that, I am grateful." (Robert Hicks, New York Times bestselling author of The Widow of the South and A Separate Country 2009-01-00)

"This novel delivers the best of both worlds: secrets, intrigue and surprising twists will keep readers flippng the pages, while Falvey's insight and poetic writing tugs at the heartstrings of the most cynical audiences." (Publishers Weekly on THE YELLOW HOUSE)

"THE YELLOW HOUSE was extremely interesting from an educational perspective. It brings to life the struggles of individuals and communities seeking freedom." (Cecie O'Bryon England, The Washington Times, 2009)

"...You can often tell where a book's plot and characters are going. But so many times I was astonished to find that what I expected on the next page was a complete surprise. Falvey held my attention with suspenseful events that constantly amazed me...THE YELLOW HOUSE is a powerful book, full of strongly drawn characters that exemplify vitality, humanity, and passion for life. They are so realistic, I felt like I knew them." (Frank West, Irish American News)

"Patricia Falvey draws on her North of Ireland roots to put a human face on the turning point in 20th century Irish history. A moving novel and singular achievement." (Mary Pat Kelly, author of Galway Bay, on THE YELLOW HOUSE)

"If you like historical fiction, with great flourishes of families destroyed and remade, this is a classic." (The Review Broads on The Yellow House)

"...Falvey tells a good story along the way. A host of interesting characters, surprising but plausible plot developments, and deftly incorporated details of the Irish struggle for independence add up to debut novel sure to please fans of historical romance." (Kathy Piehl, Library Journal on The Yellow House)

"...Falvey very successfully weaves together the politics, history, and landscape of Ireland in this period...Falvey brilliantly illustrates the cultural, political, and economic conflicts that result in erecting Ireland's North/South dividing border. The well-researched history of the period emerges through the characters, their conflicts, and their choices. The story is absorbing and satisfying historical fiction." (Sacremento Book Review & San Francisco Book Review, February 2010 on The Yellow House)

"The early scenes of Eileen's and James' lawless exploits for the Catholic resistance make for thrilling reading....The book serves as a provacative reminder of the tangled strings of family, war and familial war, and also...a splendid example of old-fashioned, minimal-bodice-ripping romance." (Joy Tipping, The Dallas Morning News, February 14, 2010 on The Yellow House)

"The characters are full, rich and real and the history of Ireland feels authentic. The author refrains from delineating between the good guys and the bad guys. She allows the reader to make their own decisions and I liked that. The Yellow House is a winner. I just can't shake the memory of it and that's a good thing." (Andrea Sisco, Minneapolis Insight Examiner, March 2, 2010)

"[O]ne of the best historical fiction novels I have read in years. . . . I simply could not pull myself away from this book. It took me back to classics such as Gaskell's North and South and the heroine Eileen had so many of the qualities that I have always loved in dear Tess of Hardy's Tess of the D'Ubervilles. When one book can bring me back to two of my favorite books of all time that are both absolute classics, I am in awe. This book kept me emotionally invested until the very end. . . . Wonderfully written, magically created, it could only come from a true Irish lass and to be her debut novel. . . .amazing. I loved it . . . every page." (Stiletto Storytime, March 14, 2010 on The Yellow House)

"It is rare for a first-time novelist to tackle historical events in as refreshing a manner as Patricia Falvey does in The Yellow House....Take your time reading The Yellow House, you'll be sad to see the last page." (Irish America, June/July 2010)

"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." (Historical Novels Review, May 2010)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 337 pages
  • Publisher: Center Street; 1 edition (February 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599952017
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599952017
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (239 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #968,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Melissa Pickett on February 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover

Set in Northern Ireland in the early 1900s, the story of The Yellow House centers around Eileen O'Neill as she grows up during a turbulent time in Ireland's history. Spanning 20 years, the story picks up during her childhood, as the family falls into poverty and tragedy sets the tone for Eileen's struggles. Working in a mill, in dangerous conditions, she saves her money and dreams of reuniting her family in the home of her childhood, hoping to bring back happier times.

Along the way, she finds herself torn between two men, and torn by her own will and the will of others. Her family history and the current political landscape shape Eileen's journey, and secrets and betrayals leave their mark.


There are books that help you to pass the time, that entertain you, and that allow you to escape your ordinary life. Then, there are books that touch your soul. These books seep into your heart and your mind, so that, upon dragging yourself from its depths, you are surprised to find yourself in your own familiar surroundings. The Yellow House is such a book.

Falvey's gift to the reader is her rich, descriptive language. The setting of this book, Ulster, a province located in northern Ireland, is lavishly painted throughout the book. The characters come to life, vibrant and flawed, clinging to dreams and hopes. Falvey uses historic events to provide a dynamic and turbulent backdrop for the characters' stories and personalities to unfold. We see the affect of love and loss, of war and fighting, of betrayal and hatred, each in varying forms and degress, on the human spirit. Eileen, in particular, is molded and shaped through the storm of war and prejudice that engulfs her life.
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Format: Hardcover
There's an unapologetically strong Nationalist/Republican slant in Patricia Falvey's story of the revolutionary years in Ireland that might not be to everyone's taste. Taking in the 1916 Rebellion and the political and social turmoil in the subsequent years leading up to the formation of the Irish Republic and the partition of Northern Ireland, with a few explanatory history passages at relevant points, the novel certainly seems like it has an eye on the Irish-American market, but there's also an involving human story to The Yellow House that has a ring of truth to it, making it more relevant and appealing to a wider readership.

The emphasis is certainly however on the suffering of decent, hard-working poor oppressed Catholics, represented here by Eileen O'Neill, a young woman who has seen her mother and father and their glorious yellow painted house in Glenlea, Co. Armagh fall victim to the prejudice and hatred of a bigoted Protestant population, everyone of them hard, dour and authoritarian, acting out of bitterness and fear of what Home Rule might bring. Eileen has to grow up quick, finding herself work in a local mill in order to look after herself and her younger brother, but events lead Eileen to take up arms in the struggle against an unjust society ruled by Protestants who keep the Catholics in their place as second-class citizens.

Almost inevitably, the struggle is characterised in romantic as well as political terms, Eileen, even as she joins the Irish Volunteers, finding her feelings torn between the handsome mill owner's son Owen Sheridan, who has returned from the Great War believing that violence isn't the answer, and James Conlon, a fervent follower of Michael Collins, who appeals to the rebellious side of the young woman's nature and her pride in her heritage.
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Format: Paperback
NO Spoilers

I was drawn to The Yellow House for its many good reviews and the fact that being of Irish descent, I usually enjoy all stories Irish, especially about the Troubles and immigration to America (see below for recommendations of this type). This novel, however, never fully engages the reader although the writing is well-done stylistically.

Eileen, the main character, is realistic as a flawed character and admirable for her courage, tenacity, and grit. A drawback to her character is that there's no real fluctuations to her character; she's the same throughout and too constant, which, for this reader, is boring. The men in her life are radical extremes, and the love story is not hard to figure out.

The ending, as some reviews have mentioned, is too "neat." Not that I was wishing for tragedy or an unhappy ending for the protagonist, I just don't find the ending provided to be realistic. You have characters who have stolen the happiness of others closing the novel being suddenly concerned for the welfare and happiness of those whom they originally harmed with seemingly little remorse. Decisions such as this is where I was dissatisfied with the end.

The author has an excellent grasp of the history of the Troubles, but these are not at the forefront of the novel. She briskly summarizes the evolution of the conflicts in snippets throughout the novel. It is definitely Eileen's story, which is fine, except if you're reading it with the expectation that the action is going to be set in the heart of the Troubles. Eileen's participation in the raids is short-lived.

This would be an okay book club or beach read. If you're really looking for a novel about the Troubles that has both action and a look at relationships during this time, then I strongly recommend The House of Splendid Isolation by Edna O'Brien and Mary Pat Kelly's Galway Bay for a more epic story on the famine and journey to America.
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