It is 1900. Two young girls meet by chance by a lake. The younger has lost her new toy boat in the water. The elder finds her silly but retrieves it from the water for her. One is rich, one is poor. But they are children and these distinctions don’t mean a lot. They are Rosie, the elder at 8, and Victoria, the younger at 7. Rosie only can’t believe anyone she meets can’t swim and is afraid of the water. A silly event becomes the foundation for a meaningful friendship.
Victoria, the younger of the two, is fair, wealthy, titled, privileged and shy. She is innocent and protected from the world. Rosie the elder is forward, fearless, poor. She is spirited, high-tempered and proud. And, though she doesn’t yet know it at this encounter,she is a servant girl for Victoria’s family. It is an attraction of opposites that begins as soon as they meet.
It is a time and place where men rule supreme in every household. Women are little more than property or ornaments or drudges and given little to do other than be decorative or serve those decorative women and their homes. For women in this early part of the 20th century options and opportunities were few and had to be carefully considered, if ever even offered.
Their bond, unlikely as it may seem, blossoms from a single telling incident in their childhood where Rosie helps Victoria conquer her fears. Victoria is enchanted and invites Rosie into her life of plenty, but also into a household of recriminations and resentments, grudges and frustrations. It is a household where, ordinarily, Rosie would have been considered inferior in class and upbringing to be appropriate company for young Victoria.
While Rosie loves Victoria she feels the slights and condescension leveled against her from the rest of the family – all but one. Events keep the bond strong and bring them closer, but in time likewise serves to pull them apart. The understanding that develops between them is undermined by the differences in their stations in life. Victoria expects good things to come her way as her right. Rosie expects, and frequently gets, nothing for her troubles. Yet their friendship endures and cannot really be severed.
A single, and historically famous, 1912 event occurs to alter the fortunes of the family and propels the drama forward in the pages of this wonderful novel. The early years of the 20th century, the Anglo-Irish gentry of the western region of Ireland, the unrest and dissatisfaction of the proud Irish who find British rule intrusive and unacceptable, a world war – all of these situations excite the narrative of “The Girls of Ennismore.”
“The Girls of Ennismore” is in the spirit of “Downton Abbey” but with its own evocative storyline to engage your spirits as you read. You will be involved and care for the people you will get to know in this third novel by Ms. Falvey, as well as the setting in the first two decades of the 20th century, and the wonderful scenes of life in a manor house or on the tumultuous streets of Dublin during the early days of World War I and the Irish Rebellion of 1916.
It is a novel you will want to read and recommend to others.