Historical Fiction Review: The Linen Queen by Patricia Falvey

The Linen Queen
by Patricia Falvey
Center Street, Hachette Book Group
Copyright 2011
320 pages
ISBN: 9781599952000
Historical Fiction

From the publisher:
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.

My Review:
On the edge of World War II, Sheila McGee longs to escape life as a mill girl in the small village in County Armagh, Ireland. With no money of her own and an unstable mother, she has little hope of escape. The annual Linen Queen competition may be her last and only chance to leave and when she unexpectedly wins the competition things begin to look up. That one glimmer of hope is dashed however by news of the Belfast Blitz that brings Allied troops to the area but makes travel nearly impossible. Little does she know that one Jewish soldier and one refugee from Belfast will change her life forever.

As a reader I've become a fan of coming of age stories like this one. I like to see characters who grow and mature from seemingly childish, selfish people into thinking, caring individuals. Most of the time I can relate to the characters and I like them even at their worst, unfortunately Sheila was not likable. Yes, she did evolve and grow but she was way too whiny at the start and seemed very immature for one who had to deal with so much in her life. I thought Grianne, the evacuee from Belfast was more realistic and was much wiser and more mature and suffered so much more that it made Sheila's gripes seem trivial.

Although I didn't care for Shelia I was still able to enjoy this book because of the amazing supporting characters. Joel and Gavin, let me tell you if they don't make you swoon and want to go out and find a soldier or a seaman of your own...whew! The soldier and the local boy stick by Sheila even when it could mean they both could get hurt or worse. Don't get me wrong they aren't prefect and they do let Sheila know that she isn't either but somehow as a reader I just knew that they were going to be forces for good in her life and they were. Characters like them and Mrs. Hollywood, who came in towards the end of the book, added so much life and color (pink to be specific) to the story that made it so enjoyable.

All in all I enjoyed The Linen Queen. I wish Sheila would have been more agreeable but not everyone can like every character, I guess. I really respect Patricia Falvey and her story-telling abilities. She definitely knows Ireland and I felt as if I were there. Anyone who can write a story like that is on my must read list and I will certainly be looking for more from her in the future.

*Content Note: Book contains strong language throughout and one brief but not detailed love scene.*

To learn more about the author visit:

*I received my complimentary ARC copy from the publisher in exchange for posting my honest review.*



  1. I do enjoy coming of age tales too :) Great review and pretty cool title too :)


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