The Girls of Ennismore: A Heart-Rending Irish Saga by Patricia Falvey
|The Girls of Ennismore: A Heart-Rending Irish Saga by Patricia Falvey|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A deceptively light and very satisfying read tracing an inter-class friendship through the early 1900s and events that rocked both Britain and Ireland for a century afterwards.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 480||Date: April 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
Ireland 1900: Ennismore House's young heiress Victoria had hoped that she and Rosie Killeen would be friends forever. Rosie soon comes to know better as there's a social chasm between those who live in the House and those, like Rosie's family, who have been brought up merely to serve them. The days of innocence are coming to an end in many ways. Soon, as the cry for Irish Home Rule becomes louder, there'll be more than steps on society's ladder between them as each must discover their own way in a nation that will never be the same again.
Irish born and American raised author Patricia Falvey has gone back to her roots to examine the early 20th century escalation of Ireland's struggle. The years that she's chosen to feature (1900 – 1918) are particularly significant as a fuse is lit and ultimately explodes as the 1916 Easter Rising brings tragedy to a nation and a focal point for the subsequent fight… but I'm getting ahead of myself here.
This is also a story of conflicts on a smaller scale. We view the tale through the privileged lifestyle of Ennismore and the latest generation of the Killeen family indentured to the big house. In her childhood naiveté Victoria doesn't realise the barriers to her chosen friendship with Rosie as, in the past, what Victoria wants, Victoria gets. However her mother, the somewhat life-stiffened Lady Ennis has more traditional ideas.
This push/pull creates confusion for Rosie. She's a naturally intelligent thinker encouraged by the schooling she receives beside Victoria (therein lies a story!), feeling out of place in both the poor and rich sides of the divide. The good thing is that we journey with an author who's as opportunistic as her characters.
Once Rosie decides to go her own way, Patricia moves us on from the country seat to Dublin in order to view the starker contrast in living conditions and to be in just the right place with the right associations when things really kick off.
Patricia envelops us in the girls and so all history is seen from where they are emotionally and geographically. We only hear about the massive moments like the Titanic (the source of a delicious twist) and the events around the General Post Office from third parties. This could be a trip wire for some authors if readers who like to witness history feel some disappointment. There are no worries on that score here though – trip wire avoided. This story is populated with people we care about immensely and so the important thing to us as well as the writer becomes how it affects them.
Throughout this deceptively light read Patricia also effectively communicates historic nuances. For instance the money (or lack of it) and it's connection with each person's nation of origin. It may have been centuries since the English invaded Ireland but that domination is still evident at the time along with its benefits for the Anglo-Irish and deprivations of the indigenous communities. Such realisations makes the Irish struggle so much more understandable and so much more poignant.
This is a definite 'must read' for all of us who love sagas. If anyone is harbouring memories of the tales woven by Belva Plain or Howard Fast's Immigrant Saga thinking we may not see their like again, put down your tissues and dig in. The Girls of Ennismore is such good stuff, I'd bet on you not being disappointed.
(We'd like to thank Corvus for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you enjoy a good saga, then we heartily recommend The Son by Philipp Meyer. If you'd like to stick with Ireland, Lovers' Hollow by Orna Ross takes us in a historical fiction way past the Rising and into the 1920s as the ripples keep spreading.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Girls of Ennismore: A Heart-Rending Irish Saga by Patricia Falvey at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Girls of Ennismore: A Heart-Rending Irish Saga by Patricia Falvey at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.