Thursday, March 9, 2017

REVIEW: The Girls of Ennismore by Patricia Falvey

The Girls of Ennismore
by Patricia Falvey

Publisher: Kensington
Page Count: 448
Release Date: March 28, 2017
Format: E-Book ARC

How got: ARC via NetGalley

First attention getter: time period/location and pretty cover

Synopsis:

From GoodReads:

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.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 4

I was drawn to this book due to my recent obsession with Irish history and reading fiction set during it; I'm glad I picked the title up yet have some reservations. While the author excels in some key areas, I had an issue with some characterization and our primary relationship. Still, this stands as a beautiful depiction of an Ireland on the brink of change and two women caught up in it.

Descriptions of the timeframe and situation of our two heroines are lovingly described. I got a real sense for the differences between classes, the gentle splendor of a pastoral estate, and a capital city on the revolutionary brink. The author takes her time in presenting a setting the reader can experience and feel with the senses. The stark differences between the peaceful years before the Rising and the turbulent scenes of urban street fighting and death that followed make for an eye-opening difference in scenes. I can't credit the author enough for her fantastic use of the descriptors, making her readers really live the action and feel the emotions

Both leads also had distinct personalities all their own. The reader gets the real feeling for the strengths and weaknesses of both girls. They face their changing world and circumstances with courage and maturity. Both learn to think for themselves in a world that would keep them subjugated, especially Victoria. The most change is visible in her as she pursues a career, political belief, and relationship inappropriate to her old world.

I did have an issue with Rosie at times. She displays a strong courageous streak and incredible willpower to create a life on her terms, despite society’s expectations of a girl from her class. She works hard to find jobs to support herself and her family, finding a career and new life in politics and revolution. However, when it comes to her emotions and emotional maturity, I have to say there are times she felt like a dud. So many times she’d be faced with an emotional crisis and instead of dealing with it, she'd flounder and do nothing. Other times she face it with irrational anger and grudges, resulting in lashing out. This made her hard to empathize with.

I also took issue with Valentine. I had to admire his love for the land and wish to do the right thing. Yet, I also felt he went along with life too much, not striving for what he truly wished for. He let life happen to him rather than make his own way. This lack of ambition, both professionally and emotionally, led him to miss out on many opportunities to create a better life for himself and to achieve the relationships he desired.

Thankfully, as we approached the end of the book, Rosie and Valentine improved. Revolution and danger sparked something in them to finally act. Yet, this didn't translate into the relationship at any time. If you could call it a relationship… Not even at the very end, did I ever feel these two have any chemistry. All interactions, even emotional ones like confrontations or love confessions, felt flat and boring. Even being on opposite sides of a rebellion didn't add that extra spark of forbidden love. These two together are just boring, hands down.

The other relationships in the book at least save this title from relationship purgatory for me. Brandon and Victoria are just sweet together. Two people from different sides of the class barrier, their relationship has the element of the forbidden that Valentine's and Rosie's lacked. My heart couldn't help but soar as they strove to be together, despite war and societal expectations. I also adored Rosie's relationship with Cathal. Now there is a relationship with incredible chemistry and emotional turbulence from the past that the pair do a great job in overcoming, even despite Rosie's emotional issues. The issues and consequences in that relationship felt real. Why oh why couldn't that relationship have worked out and made it to the end?!

At least this book had a suspenseful tale of rebellion and character growth to carry it. Both Rosie and Victoria's maturation were a joy to partake in. Relationships with Brendan and Cathal also added spice and emotional depth to their characters. Even though Rosie fell flat emotionally for a large part of the book, at least by the end I felt some connection to her. However it's in the area of her relationship with Valentine and how long it took Rosie to develop that brought this work out. So in the end, this is a upper-to-middle of the road book for me. I'd be open to other works by this author in future, though, since she displays promise as a writer and suspenseful storyteller.

Note: Book received for free from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

1 comment:

  1. I like stories set in this period too (in Ireland or otherwise), but this one sounds a bit problematic on the characters side, or am I mistaken? On the other hand, the historical setting sounds really nice, so I may still give this a go.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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