A new to me author with a unique twist and perspective, Patricia Falvey brings the story of two women from opposite ends of the class system in early 20th century Ireland. Please read on for my review of
The Girls of Ennismore
Spanning several years that were, in retrospect, fairly crucial to the changes happening in the world, and more specifically in Ireland, both for women and the country that has struggled with its own identity and rule years. Mixing the two main characters from disparate situations, we have Rosie, a local child most decidedly not born to the finer things and Victoria, daughter of the Lord of the ‘big house’. Laden with the dynamics of class, power and expectations, the story is rich with description, setting the scene in ways that readers can instantly connect. More striking is the ease with which Falvey conveys the history and forces that will ultimately come to blows, pitting countrymen against one another in the series of events most commonly referred to as “The Troubles”.
From the start, Rosie is the more accessible and empathetic of the two characters: imagine yourself a child with next to nothing, a father and family who’s every move depends on the Lord of the Manor, and then being brought into a life of luxury beyond expectations. Allowed to join in lessons and play time, influencing her new friend to think for herself, even as the world would seek to silence both their voices. Victoria is a bit harder to suss out, she’s been raised to certain expectations, and even the influence of her bold and often brash friend, her only friend in reality, isn’t necessarily going to cause her to buck convention.
From the two distinct personalities, we get a sense of their growth and changing alliances, from girls to young women, the two provide a more personal, if not always emotionally available approach to the changes that they experience and see as the world around them pushes and struggles to redefine Ireland, what it means to be Irish, and the questions about home rule.
Wonderful prose features descriptions and political views that bring an understanding of the time, and keeps feeding information in tolerable bits, through the character’s understanding and interactions. While I didn’t actually find the romance threads as engaging as the rest of the book, the winner in that contest would have had to have been Victoria and Brandon, bringing the sense of the forbidden in far more palpable ways than did Rosie’s relationship with her brother, Valentine. For me, the story is more memorable for delivery of a story that places these disparate elements into the history, allowing an understanding of the various forces and the uneven distribution of power that led so many to speak, and later, act on their frustrations spurred by the unfairness of it all.
Title: The Girls of Ennismore
Author: Patricia Falvey
Genre: Historical Fiction, Irish, Pre World War 1, Woman's Fiction
Published by: Kensington
Published on: 28 March, 2017
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 13 Hours: 11 minutes
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Set in Ireland during the turbulent early 20th century, Patricia Falvey's sweeping novel explores an unlikely friendship between two girls of vastly different backgrounds, as each tries to overcome the barriers set by class and birthright...
On a June morning in 1900, Rosie Killeen crosses the road that divides her family's County Mayo farm from the estate of Lord and Lady Ennis, and makes her way to the "big house" for the first time. Barely eight years old, Rosie joins the throng of servants preparing for the arrival of Queen Victoria. But while the royal visit is a coup for Ennismore, a chance meeting on the grounds proves even more momentous for Rosie.
Victoria Bell, Lord and Lady Ennis's young daughter, is desperately lonely. Though the children of the gentry seldom fraternize with locals, Lord Ennis arranges for Rosie to join in Victoria's school lessons. For Rosie, the opportunity is exhilarating yet isolating. Victoria's governess and aunt, Lady Louisa, objects to teaching a peasant girl. The other servants resent Rosie's escape from the drudgery of life below stairs. Bright, strong-willed Rosie finds herself caught between her own people and the rarefied air of Ennismore--especially as she grows closer to Victoria's older brother, Valentine.
As they near womanhood, the girls' friendship is interrupted. Victoria is bound for a coming out season in Dublin, and Rosie must find a way to support her family. But Ireland is changing too. The country's struggle for Home Rule, the outbreak of the Great War, and a looming Easter rebellion in Dublin all herald a new era. Not even Ennismore can escape unscathed. And for Rosie, family loyalty, love, friendship and patriotism will collide in life-changing ways, leading her through heartbreak and loss in search of her own triumphant independence.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.