Thursday, 12 September 2013

" The House " by A. O'Connor

I came across this book as part of Eason's 3 for 2 offer recently and although I had not heard anything of it,the cover called out to me.  The tag line says " Downton fans, you'll love this " - Irish Independent.

The book is split into three sections ; 1840's, 1910's and present day.
The first section is based around the building of the house by Lord Edward Armstrong for his new bride, Anna.  When Anna fails to produce an heir to the family's fortune, and title she takes matters into her own hands.
The second part skips through time and introduces Clara, another new bride, but one who is lonely, bullied and mostly alone. When the First World War starts, she struggles with her loyalty to the Armstrongs and the world she is part of.
The final chapters see The House unlived in for over 90 years and up for auction.
Will someone see the history contained in it's walls and appreciate its beauty?

Although I really enjoyed the first section of this book, with the descriptions of the house and its residents, the story then began to feel rushed, and Irish history was dashed through with very little mention of how the people of Ireland found themselves in the depths of despair during the famine years and after.  I think if you were not an Irish reader and not well read in Irish History, you would find it hard to follow the mood of the book.  
I also thought that the character of Prudence, Clara's sister in law, to be similar to Mrs Danvers from Rebecca Du Maurier's Rebecca.  The scheming and cruelty of this woman was all too familiar but nowhere near as hateful as Danvers.

O'Connor's book is a little over 500 pages long and was an easy read, nice short chapters and light , and as the tag line suggests, fans of Downton Abbey may enjoy the fast paced, soap opera style storylines.

I would have preferred more focus on the house itself and its layout, staff and atmosphere and perhaps more research into the feelings of Ireland as a whole during the relevant periods.

A special mention to Poolbeg for a really beautiful book cover though!

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