The Woman of the House

Alice Taylor, Author
Alice Taylor, Author St. Martin's Press $23.95 (315p) ISBN 978-0-312-20065-7
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-1-902011-00-4
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-56895-809-5
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The mention of stormy nights in the first paragraph of this pleasant but predictable first novel by Irish memoirist Taylor (Country Days) is a fair indication of the slight drama that follows. The story of 32-year-old Kate Phelan's battle to save Mossgrove, her rural family farm, is set in Kilmeer, Ireland, during the 1950s. Three generations of Phelans have rallied against the crises of nature, booze, gambling and the treacherous Conway clan, but none has encountered an obstacle as difficult as Martha, Kate's new sister-in-law. ""There is no love of the land"" in rigid Martha. Taylor is heavy-handed with the bad woman vs. good woman plot, telling readers innumerable times how impossible it will be for Kate to stop Martha from ruthlessly selling Mossgrove following the death of Kate's brother. Kate is an unmarried do-gooder who, when she's not fighting nobly for her family's traditions works as a district nurse; she also defeats a child molester, and helps her soulmate-to-be to establish a much-needed secondary school. Martha's the haughty, cold outsider who hates Mossgrove because it's brimming with Phelan family history she was never a part of, and she resents the whole ""happy"" family. Kate breaks out of character and period for one jarring moment to denounce her adversary as ""a pathetic bitch with a warped power complex."" Though this unpersuasive outburst lies at the heart of Taylor's story, the numerous earnest subplots and idyllic rural setting may carry the undemanding reader through to the novel's tidy conclusion. (Mar.)
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