The Linen Queen: A Novel Paperback – Feb 15 2012
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"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,
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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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
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.
Sheila was Daddy's little girl but her father left when she was a child and never returned. Sheila and her self centered mother live in a basement room beneath her strict Aunt and drunken Uncle. Sheila's mother derides Sheila and uses guilt to take all of Sheila's earnings. Sheila even has to share her bed when her Aunt takes in a bitter and frightened waif. Sheila dreams of leaving her small town and now that she is 18 she has the chance to win the mill Linen Queen competition and make her escape.
Sheila's best friend is Gavin, her childhood playmate, who took over the cargo boat business after his father died. Sheila and Gavin have a favorite meeting place where they can look out across the water at the beautiful mountains and on a clear day they can see the lush green of the three surrounding counties. Sheila longs to go away on one of the ships while Gavin is always happy to return to port and home. They have been like brother and sister but it seems that moody 22 year old Gavin is developing a different interest in Sheila.
Sheila is depressed when she is not even chosen for the Linen Queen competition. Although she is really a good girl, her reputation is one of a flirt. She is independent and a bit brash, but never shabby. Surprise circumstances result in her winning the title and money but she doesn't get to go away because the war comes.
Many of the girls see the bright young American soldiers as a way to leave the drudgery of their lives. Sheila slowly develops a friendship with Jewish Captain, Joel Solomon. Joel is a sober and pessimistic man who is drawn to Sheila's vibrancy even as he acknowledges that he will probably not live through the war. Sheila doesn't truly love Joel but can she use him to get away from Ireland to England? Meanwhile she is at odds with Gavin who is angry at the American efforts and begins to get pulled into the IRA rebellion.
The story moves over several years showing Sheila's character growth from her inward, self-interest focus to a giving and caring person. She is the strongest among her friends and even though there are struggles and falling outs she is there to pull them together.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story showing the insecurities, jealousies and struggles of these young Irish women. The setting and characters are beautifully and richly portrayed. I loved this particular bit of comfort from the orphanage Rabbi: "I have always believed that when a person dies his soul melts into tiny pieces and lodges in the hearts of those he loved." Page 180.
I highly recommend this emotional spotlight on a unique character in a special place and time.