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The Secrets of Roscarbury Hall

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  4,496 ratings  ·  194 reviews
Secrets can’t last forever in this heartfelt debut novel, a UK bestseller and contemporary Philomena story.

In a crumbling mansion in a small Irish village in County Wicklow, two elderly sisters, Ella and Roberta O’Callaghan, live alone with their secrets, memories, and mutual hatred. Long estranged by a dark family tragedy, they communicate only by terse notes. But when th
Hardcover, 332 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by Skyhorse (first published May 14th 2015)
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Katherine Pederson Yes, it is. I noticed a few years ago that a novel written by Maeve Binchy (also Irish) had a title change; I could have saved some money had I known …moreYes, it is. I noticed a few years ago that a novel written by Maeve Binchy (also Irish) had a title change; I could have saved some money had I known that!(less)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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Ireland. Rathsorney. And on the outskirts, down Arklow Road, Roscarbury Hall.

The place of history, of safety, of promise. For Peter O'Doherty, the bank manager, the tumbledown house and its occupants was a small, silly aggravation in his busy day. It was a sight to behold. Long neglected. Empty looking: dirty windows covered in thick layers of grime; the wisteria out of control; the brass knocker on the front door covered in decades of blown dust built up, obscured in layers and layers of dried
Margaret Madden
Jun 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, irish-fiction
3.5 stars
Two estranged, elderly sisters, a well-worn period home that is in need of major renovation and a lifetime of secrets. A recipe for historical fiction. But, along with these storylines, there is the added tale of forced and hidden adoption in Ireland going back decades. It may sound like fiction, but unfortunately, it's based on true life.
Author Ann O'Loughlin has written about a formerly-taboo subject; that of the Catholic church supporting the adoption of babies to wealthy American f
Tracy Fenton
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a moving and lovely story of two elderly sisters, Ella and Roberta who live in a run-down Irish mansion and only communicate through notes, having not spoken to each other for decades.  Ella has no alternative but to open their home to the public as a cafe to try to raise money as the bank are threatening to take their home away.

Throughout the book we learn the secrets of the sisters, the tragedies that have affected the O'Callaghan family and why the sisters don't speak to each other.  
Family secrets born of tragic loss...

Atmospheric doesn't begin to describe this novel.  Imagine. A neglected and dilapidated manor house in County Wicklow, Ireland. The owners are two elderly sisters. They haven't spoken to each other in decades. Though they share the house, they communicate only by terse notes left on the hall table. They do not use each other's provisions.  They have one thing in common: they both love Roscarbury Hall and wouldn't live anywhere else.

The sisters' beloved parent
Shaz Goodwin
Aug 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

When I took part in the blog tour for The Ballroom Cafe, Ann had written a guest post and shared a personal story about Weiss vintage brooches. Having read the novel, those key moments when Ella unwraps different brooches are poignant and full of meaning.

The cafe at Roscarbury Hall is a place of gossip for the local women in the community. Despite the negativity on the surface, when it's needed, the support is there for Ella and Debbie. Ella knows just ho
Jun 23, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If it had been possible to give this book zero stars I would have. Talk about lets jump on the cake shop bandwagon & chuck in a bit of Philomena. The book came across to me as not so much subtle plot twists as someone making it up as they went along & not very successfully as it clunked wearily throughout most cliches/nuns/"orphans", adoption. Characters were not very well drawn, came across as bad then good then bad again. Never heard so much mention of rills that might possibly fill with rain. ...more
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A novel filled with both joys and sorrows. I really like how Ann O'Loughlin made the reader care about the she intertwined Irish history into the story to give us a better of understanding of why things happened as they did. The author just keeps putting twists into the plot so that when you think you are almost at the realize you have a long way to go to unravel the pieces of this puzzle.
Tracy Shephard
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Notes, secrets and sisters combine to make The Ballroom Cafe one of the best reads for me this year. Once started I could not put Ann O'Loughlin's book down.

The blurb tells you everything you need to know about this absorbing tale so I have little to add about the story, but I will say that a web of intrique is woven within this novel and every page is written with such brilliance that I read it in one sitting. My life was on hold for the day.

This tragic and profound read is both emotional and c
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Secrets of Roscarbury Hall is historical fiction based on the scandal that rocked Ireland and the Catholic church. Debbie is an American who finds out too late that she was adopted from Ireland...little does she know that her quest to find her birth mother would create a whirlwind of investigations, heartbreaks, frenzy and the growth of a beautiful friendship. Ella has lived in Roscarbury Hall all her life and now it's just her and her sister, Roberta--neither has spoken to the other for de ...more
Brenda Woodford
Feb 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Life in all its shades

The story deals with complex and heart rending issues. The writing flows well, the characters believable. Although I could imagine myself in Roscarberry Hall and gardens I didn't understand how so many villagers would visit so regularly. I also don't understand why I wasn't more moved by the emotional dramas, I see that some reviewers said they wept, there is plenty to weep about and I wonder if some of that directness was lost for me because I was listening on audio.
Marguerite Kaye
This was an okay read, pleasant, a story that kept me turning pages, though it didn't set me alight. Sometimes though, that's exactly what you need, and this did it for me. I'd call it a beach read - or a good one for when you can't sleep - don't mean it puts you to sleep, I mean it is good for not giving you nightmares. So it does what it says on the tin really. And it was a Kindle bargain too.
I enjoyed reading this for the most part, but its not a book I would choose to re-read. Some of the events are very disturbing and I was left feeling profoundly sad at the end. However, this is a powerful story, if you don't mind dark themes.
This is reminiscent of a Maeve Binchey book
Krista Esta
Good subject that would have profited getting more into depth with. Good chick lit, but had potential to be more.
Jun 14, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015

When I read the synopsis to this book, I have immediately thought that I must read it. It sounded like absolutely my cup of tea, and it is touching upon a subject matter that is incredibly gentle and is also a taboo subject, and I really wanted to see how the author is going to tackle it, especially when we think that it's based on true facts, that such things took place for real.

There are many secrets in this book, and each one of them more shocking or sad than the other one, and mostly I have
Kirsty (Book - Love - Bug)
I adored The Ballroom Café which is a very touching story and will no doubt touch the hearts of many people across the world (and not just those with Irish connections) as it features the uncovering of an Irish adoption scandal.

It brings to mind Philomena and the scandal which has shocked people in recent years. However, at the same time this book is not really comparable to to Philomena; The Ballroom Café is so much more than just a story about adoption; it is a thought-provoking story of commu
Jun 25, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book wasn't anywhere near as elegant and rich a story as I was hoping for. It could've been though. The ingredients (plot and characters) were there and a talented writer like Rachel Hore could've delivered something much better with these elements. But the writing style of Ann O'Loughlin and her stilted dialogue - especially the way Ella speaks - was annoying. However it's stark simplicity made for quick reading over the course of a weekend. The only unique and interesting element for me w ...more
The Ballroom Cafe is not my usual kind of book, however needing something lighter to read I decided to give it a go.

I did like the storyline, and found the main characters likeable enough, however I felt that at the end of the book I still didn't really know any of them. Also, the dialogue felt very stilted in places, and was not written in a way that people actually speak.

All in all, an easy read with a interesting plot, nothing extraordinary.
Aug 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's not that this book was bad or poorly written, I think it was just trying to do too much. The one jarring relationship in the book was that of the two sisters Ella and Roberta. I won't spoil things by revealing why they haven't spoken for decades but I do not see how they could have continued to live under the same roof. I think the story would have been much better served with a winnowing of the subplots.
Claire Watson
Sep 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Had this book recommended to me by a friend and I thoroughly loved it. Such a delicate story line with a few twists thrown in for good measure. I can definitely recommend this book.
Dorothy Fleming
3--3.5 somewhere in there. Kept me interested, but , something was missing. Glad I read it, would recommend it. Love a good Irish , 2 spinster sisters, secret!!
Sep 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Secrets of Roscarbury Hall: A Novel is by Ann O’Loughlin. This novel takes place in Ireland in the present with backflashes into the past. It actually begins a little slow and it takes a while to get into the rhythm of the story. At first, it seems disjointed but as you read, you see that all the parts fit well into the story. The story is well-written and does not leave itself open to world censure. The secrets that are held within the walls of the Hall and the inhabitants are those that co ...more
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I started reading this book, I found it more than a little peculiar - two sisters living under the same roof who communicate only by written notes (not because one of them is deaf or mute, oh no because they just don't speak to each other) and then an interloper to this tiny village arrives and is clearly set to shake everyone up. I did a little mental eye roll and decided to stick with it because I had previously loved The Ludlow Ladies Society which was my introduction to this author. I w ...more
Dec 21, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book of some charm set in Ireland

My last read was set in the Australian outback and due to the wonderful world of books, I have found myself here in rural Ireland - a change of style, pace and genre to Rathsorney, co Wicklow, Ireland in March 2008. It's gentle, sweet and the life in small town Ireland warmly conveyed. Two sisters, Ella and Roberta inhabit separate wings of their crumbling Irish old mansion, haven't spoken for decades and communicate through Terse hand written notes. It's a sad
A very moving story of love and loss. Debbie an American woman is searching for her birth mother after finding out that the parents who brought her up weren’t her biological parents. However time is running out for Debbie as she tries to uncover the truth of her birth.

From here Debbie travels to her birth mother Mary’s town in Ireland. She makes friends with Ella who has a dark past of her own. She runs The Ballroom Café in a mansion she owns with her sister who she only speaks to via written n
Mary Gullo
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The cover of the book says it all, "Secrets can't last forever". The novel is about how keeping secrets affects our lives and, in the end, how relieving them brings peace.

The story revolves around two elderly sisters living in an old mansion in Ireland who haven't spoken to each other for decades since a tragic accident killed Ella's (the older sister and main character) daughter. The bank is ready to foreclose on Roscarbury Hall and Ella, desperate to keep their beloved home, opens up a cafe i
Green Gables
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was such a touching, emotional read for me that I didn't want it to end. I just loved the small Irish village with all the gossip, neighbors, secrets, family trauma, heartbreak and sibling rivalry. My favorite part was when Ella started her tea house and my mouth would drool at the thought of all the cakes, pastries, scones and tea. Too bad the recipes weren't included in the book!

There was a lot of sadness and emotion in this story as well. The injustices brought by the nuns and the a
Elaine Nickolan
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this story on my vacation. It is the story of two sisters that live together, yet haven't spoken in over 20 years. They need to find someway to save their home from the bank. Ella decides to open a café. Along comes a woman from the states, seeking answers to her adoption long ago and on limited time. As we go thru the story, we discover bits and pieces of the past, secrets, that draw the characters together. The horrible secrets that are exposed, that have brought us to the here and now ar ...more
Barbara Pearlman
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great story about two sisters who live an isolated life in Ireland, and what happens when one of them decides to open up their crumbling mansion to the public as a restaurant to raise money to pay their bills. The story also concerns a young American woman who finds some cryptic notes from her deceased mother about her adoption from an Irish orphanage. The lives of this young woman, the Irish villagers and the sisters interact bring to light a scandal by a local convent, the snatching ...more
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 2 Sep 01, 2015 10:10AM  

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