79 – The Linen Queen by Patricia Falvey

I read this book as a part of a “challenge” my online book club was doing.  Everyone that wanted to participate was put together and buddied up.  My buddy and I had originally chosen to read The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey, but we both weren’t able to get it at our libraries.  Instead, my buddy found this book also written by Falvey.  We both liked the summary we read about it and so we dove right in.  Here’s the Goodreads summary:

“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.”

I really liked this book. At first, it was hard for me to get into it. I don’t know what it was…I just didn’t have a hard time putting it down. Then, because I knew I needed to finish it before having to take it back to the library, I delved in and really became captured by the story.

The main character, Sheila, even though she was pretty self-centered at first, you couldn’t help but like her. It was a lovely story seeing her grow up and change and really become a woman. I wasn’t expecting this to be a coming of age story, but it was.

It was also interesting to see her tumultuous relationship with her mother play out.

The supporting characters, Gavin, Joel, Grainne, Patsy, and Mrs. Hollywood fit so well into the overall story. I can’t imagine how this story would have been told without their roles.

Even though this book was set during World War II, the ending was fitting. It wasn’t the perfect all-tied-up-with-a-ribbon ending…but it was real.

I liked this book. If you’re an historical fiction fan and specifically like reading about Ireland, this would be a good book for you.

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