Cover image for The woman of the house
The woman of the house
Taylor, Alice, 1938-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Physical Description:
315 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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Set in the 1950s, this warm and humorous story tells of a rural Irish woman'sstruggle to preserve her family and its traditions.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

An entrancing story about conflict within families that alternates in the telling among the points of view of several characters, Taylor's novel traces three generations living on a farm in rural Ireland. Several themes figure throughout the book: the definition of what family is, the struggle to love a family member whose behaviors are hurtful to other family members, the pain of losing a family member, and the difficulties involved in accepting a new member into the family. Delving into the intimate lives of Kate Phelan, Kate's niece Nora, and Jack, a farmhand who has been with the Phelans all his life, Taylor explores the workings of the family in relationships including father and daughter, mother and son, and husband and wife. Taylor illuminates these relationships and demonstrates how they form a network of ties that pulls the separate individuals of the family together. Written with much sensitivity and great depth of feeling, this is a delightful read. --Bonnie Johnston

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The Phelans have owned Mossgrove for generations. The small, rural Irish farm has been the pride of them all until Ned's wife, Martha, arrives and begins to undermine generations of hard work and happiness. She resents the deep history of the place and sets about making it her own, shutting out what is left of Ned's family. She is particularly jealous of Ned's sister Kate, a successful local nurse and doting aunt to Martha's children. When Ned dies suddenly, Martha puts Mossgrove up for sale in hopes that it will be bought by the neighboring Conways, who have long coveted the Phelan farm. What she does not realize are the lengths to which Kate and the hired hand Jack will go to keep the land in the family. Set in the 1950s, this is a wonderfully warm, charming story of Irish life lived close to the earth. Taylor (Country Days, LJ 2/15/95) is a self-taught writer from rural Ireland. This will be read and enjoyed by both readers of Irish heritage and those who appreciate the resurgence of fresh and talented writing coming out of Ireland today. Taylor's gentle and affectionate view of her homeland is richly refreshing. Recommended.‘Susan Gene Clifford, Aerospace Corp., El Segundo, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.