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The Linen Queen: A Novel [Paperback]

Patricia Falvey
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Feb. 15 2012
Abandoned by her father and neglected by her self-centered, unstable mother, Sheila McGee cannot wait to escape the drudgery of her mill village life in Northern Ireland. Her classic Irish beauty helps her win the 1941 Linen Queen competition, and the prize money that goes with it finally gives her the opportunity she's been dreaming of. But Sheila does not count on the impact of the Belfast blitz which brings World War II to her doorstep. Now even her good looks are useless in the face of travel restrictions, and her earlier resolve is eroded by her ma's fear of being left alone.
When American troops set up base in her village, some see them as occupiers but Sheila sees them as saviors--one of them may be her ticket out. Despite objections from her childhood friend, Gavin O'Rourke, she sets her sights on an attractive Jewish-American army officer named Joel Solomon, but her plans are interrupted by the arrival of a street-wise young evacuee from Belfast.
Frustrated, Sheila fights to hold on to her dream but slowly her priorities change as the people of Northern Ireland put old divisions aside and bond together in a common purpose to fight the Germans. Sheila's affection for Joel grows as she and Gavin are driven farther apart. As the war moves steadily closer to those she has grown to love, Sheila confronts more abandonment and loss, and finds true strength, compassion, and a meaning for life outside of herself.

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Product Description


"Sheila McGee, the feisty young 'Linen Queen,' will touch your heart as she grows from a girl who values herself only for her good looks into a compassionate woman who discovers inner reserves of strength. A dramatic love story told against the backdrop of World War II in Northern Ireland."—Mary Pat Kelley, author of the best-selling novel Galway Bay

About the Author

Patricia Falvey was born in Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland. She was raised in Northern Ireland and England before immigrating alone to the United States at the age of twenty. Until recently, she served as a Managing Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLC, where she led a national tax consulting practice.
Over the years she participated in numerous writing seminars, and in June of 2007, Patricia finally made the decision to leave her position with PWC at the pinnacle of her career and devote herself full time to her first love - writing. The author of The Yellow House (Center Street 2009), this is her second novel.

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Most helpful customer reviews
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Mrs. Q: Book Addict TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Publisher: Center Street
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Category: Irish Fiction

Patricia Falvey's follow up novel The Linen Queen is a story of relationships, aspirations and survival. Sheila McGee is young, self-centered and perverse. She dreams of the day she will sail away from Ireland, and head towards a grander lifestyle. Ireland feels like a prison, stuck with a belittling mother, dishonest friends, and a father who couldn't or wouldn't stay. Sheila McGee has been working at the mill since she was 14 years old, her capricious mother thought school was a waste of time and pulled her out to contribute to the household. However, according to her mother, it seems that every penny Sheila earned was meant for the household. Each day returning home is an adventure, life with her mother is unpredictable. Now, 18 years old Sheila is finally eligible to compete in the Linen Queen pageant, a substantial monetary prize could finance her escape. When Sheila is not chosen amongst the contestants she knows it has something to do with Mrs. McAteer, the mill owner's sister. Sheila has a reputation as the town flirt, and Mrs. McAteer detests the girl. When it appears that Sheila is the best viable contestant Sheila is given a chance while Mrs. McAteer loudly disapproves. Sheila unsurprisingly wins the pageant. However, life becomes complicated quickly. The Belfast Blitz brings World War II to the doorstep of the Irish. Fear becomes real and war is no longer far away. Tension is rising in Ireland when support for the British is split amongst the people. Those who want to help with the war effort, and those who believe it is Britain's war and want nothing to do with it. When American troops are stationed in Queensbrook Sheila frolics with the best of them and hopes to snag on.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  65 reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacks the punch of Falvey's first book Feb. 25 2011
By Holly Weiss - Published on
"The real prize was my discovery of the raw power of beauty." So states Sheila McGee after being crowned The Linen Queen of a small Irish mill town in the shadow of World War II.

Appropriately told in the first person from self-centered Sheila's viewpoint, The Linen Queen takes us through the trials and tribulations of Sheila's thwarted attempts to use her prize money to escape from Ireland in search of a grander lifestyle. Her inability to decide between two men, childhood friend, Gavin O'Rourke and dashing American officer, Joel Solomon, further complicates her situation. The lives of all the characters change when the German's bomb Belfast and the Yanks arrive to provide protection. Ireland learns that England's war with Hitler has become its own. A review requires little plot description because oddly, the book jacket description covers it all.

Born and raised in Ireland, author, Patricia Falvey, put her dream of being a writer on the back burner when she pursued a successful business career. Because of persistent internal promptings she gave up her chosen profession to pursue writing. Her love of Ireland spills over the pages in The Linen Queen.

Is Sheila a heroine, a protagonist, or simply the main female character with a propensity to annoy us? The author has a knack for creating strong-willed female characters that make a statement even though our sympathy toward them vacillates. Sheila begins to cultivate a conscience toward the end of the novel, but the reader is left to doubt that her transformation is genuine. Her protection of Grainne, a waif who lives under her roof, however, is both touching and believable. Well-drawn and realistic is the rivalry among the mill girls. The book clearly illustrates how the provincial social mores of the time discriminated against women.

The gusto and rollicking momentum of Ms. Falvey's first book, The Yellow House, are curiously absent from this second novel. The action in the plot wanes as the book progresses and the characters seem dispassionate and uninteresting. Patricia Falvey is clearly a talented author. The Linen Queen, however, pales in contrast to The Yellow House. Perhaps a deadline kept her from fulfilling her potential in this novel. Look for more from this author.

I thank Center Street for this review copy. The opinions expressed in my review are unbiased and wholly my own.

Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sweeping, evocative novel set in Northern Ireland during WWII Feb. 27 2011
By Fiction fan from CT - Published on
Patricia Falvey writes sweeping, evocative historical fiction, and I was first impressed with her writing with her debut, The Yellow House. Her latest novel, The Linen Queen, takes the reader on a journey of discovery with its heroine - Sheila McGee. One can't help but cheer for Sheila and the woman she ultimately becomes, and the backdrop of Northern Ireland during World War II is as atmospheric as it is accurate. Suffice it to say that I loved The Linen Queen, and am looking forward to Patricia Falvey's next work.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the linen queen Feb. 25 2011
By Fred mcgrath - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This story picks you up like a monster wave and carries you breathlessly through love,history and character development with never a pause or reason to look away.Keep it up Patricia-I love your stories and all I learn!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Falvey is an outstanding and evocative storyteller May 12 2011
By T. Conner - Published on
Shelia McGee-abandoned by her shallow father and neglected by her bipolar mother-knows there's life beyond her Northern Ireland mill village and dreams of fleeing to England. She enters and wins the 1941 Linen Queen beauty competition and all her hopes of escape rest on the prize money of £200. What she wasn't planning on, however, is the Belfast Blitz which brings the realities of WWII to her village.

Soon travel restrictions, along with her mother's fear of being left alone, put a halt to Shelia's plans. But when the American troops arrive, Shelia sees a way out. Despite objections from Gavin, a childhood friend who pines for our heroine, Shelia sets her eyes on a Jewish-American soldier named Joel Solomon. Trials follow and our heroine goes through a journey which proves to herself that she is strong and not near as self-centered as she thought herself to be.

Falvey is an outstanding and evocative storyteller; would recommend this to anyone who loves historical fiction. I even believe she's giving Maeve Binchy a run for her money for my favorite Irish author.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a taste of Northern Ireland March 8 2011
By vesta2016 - Published on
This Irish historical was a pleasure to read with its fully-rounded set of characters. The "Linen Queen," Sheila McGee, makes a long and difficult journey from an understandably self-centered girl to a mature young woman of empathy and intelligence. When her own family fails her spectacularly, she founds her own family of friends, each undergoing the tribulations of life in WWII-era Northern Ireland. The setting is memorable for both its provincialism and its beauty.
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