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House of Splendid Isolation

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  884 ratings  ·  75 reviews
Book Description Publication Date: April 1, 1998 The author of A Fanatic Heart offers a timely novel that looks into the mind and heart of contemporary Ireland as an escaped IRA operative takes refuge in an abandoned house--until the occupant unexpectedly returns home.
Paperback, 232 pages
Published June 1st 1995 by Plume (first published 1994)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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A. Mary
Mar 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: irish-novels
O'Brien builds a puzzle, but once the pieces are all in place, she doesn't offer a solution. To do so would be trite. What she succeeds in doing is make clear the complexity of Ireland by giving her characters the space they need to become known and thus to become sympathetic. Not every single character is likable, but every character's impulses are understood (except perhaps for the Snoop). I wouldn't say they're dynamic--they don't change. Perhaps that's the point. Perhaps the situation in ter ...more
Laila (BigReadingLife)
Josie O’Meara is old and lonely in her crumbling big manor house in the Irish countryside. She’s come home from the hospital to die in her own home. She is haunted by her past, her abusive husband and a tragic love affair with an unavailable man. She is utterly alone in the world, a nurse occasionally coming to check on her and a grocery delivery coming once a week. The last thing she expected is to be caught up in the manhunt for a dangerous escaped IRA soldier, McGreevy, nicknamed The Beast. I ...more
Jul 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I read this book as part of a college literature course. I’d never heard of it before that, but thoroughly enjoyed it. It brought to mind another book I’ve enjoyed, Gone to Texas (See Josey Wales: Two Westerns : Gone to Texas The Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales). In both cases, the central character is a hardened outlaw who comes to be held in awe by friend and foe alike. Only this story takes place in modern Ireland.

I really enjoyed the author’s subtle style. You are only ever given the bare bon
Vivian Valvano
Dec 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Reread for my library presentation. Still one of my favorite of O'Brien's works. It is a very effective Troubles novel. Inspired by the factual hunting down of a notorious IRA gunman, O'Brien creates an intriguing character, her escaped prisoner, IRA Volunteer McGreevy. He escapes to the South, where a job is being planned, and hides out in the house of the title, in Tipperary, believing it to be temporarily vacant. However, the house is inhabited by an old, frail widow, Josie O'Meara. She has a ...more
Mar 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: houses
The cover of this book gets five stars for being so enchanting to make me want to read it, the title also gets five stars, for being enticing. The idea gets four stars but the actual story itself gets only two stars from me. , (maybe it's just me...) was hard to follow and never really evoked any emotion.
Aug 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is by a woman I will be paying more attention to. If you're interested in good writing, the Ireland/England terrorist conflict, and lonely old ladies, read this. If not, read something else by this author because she's extremely worthwhile.
Mary Lou
When a Northern Irish terrorist breaks into an old woman’s house to seek refuge, this book becomes more a study of Ireland’s history rather than a novel about the troubles.
Josie, now near the end of her life feels like ‘the rust coloured husks’ on a geranium plant, stripped of life by marriage to a violent drinker.She forms a relationship of sorts with McGreevy, whose ideology is still strong, but who is now also propelled forward because he has lost everything and everyone else he once loved.
Orla Hegarty
Mar 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
I remember flyng back from Ireland after visiting my family on my own as a 12 year old in 1979 and sitting beside a newly married couple from Belfast. They were heading to Canada on a belated honeymoon. The delay had been caused because one of their families homes had been bombed.

As a 12 y.o. - and first generation Canadian-Irish immigrant - I had no idea of how their lives were completely entwined with my own heritage.

This book helped me to understand this at a greater depth than before. It is
Steve Kreidler
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Beautifully haunting novel with poetic prose as the real star. Many have described this as one of the handful of books that capture the intensity of the Irish conflict from within. I'll take their word for it, as I have no other reference. This book is so personal and so broad at the same time.

Just be sure to set aside good blocks of time to read it, so that the flow and arc of the story can envelope you.
J.S. Dunn
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ireland
Read it again, having just read O'Brien's memoir that has bits of the Josie O'Meara life, drawn from O'Brien's mother. A brief stint in Brooklyn, repressed sexuality, a drunken husband who is occasionally violent, and lost wealth. This has recurred, it seems, in other O'Brien novels before and after this novel. Somewhat disappointing when re-read. More of a 3 than a 4.
Laura Williamson Ambrose
May 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
great book. i read it too long ago to have something pithy to say about it. just trust me.
Jul 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Edna O'Brien knows how to use words. That sounds flip but it's not meant to be. She's very responsible and diligent with them. This book was sad and good.
Mar 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
I thought this book captured the essence of the Irish problem by exploring the life of a rich middle-aged widow who is taken hostage by an IRA fugitive.
Mary Williams
Nov 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
book group. I'd say "5" stars but it was too bleak to be truly enjoyed.
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobooks, ireland
The book had its moments but didn't quite do it for me.
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
How did I miss this book. Totally taken with story. At the top of my all time favorites.
Jun 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
By Jim Ruland

This summer, instead of slogging through all 250,000 words of Ulysses (as well as the shelf-cracking row of books you’ll need to decipher it), read Ireland’s other modernist prose stylist and genius storyteller: Edna O’Brien.

The author of more than 20 novels, short stories and plays for stage and screen, O’Brien has had a prolific career spanning nearly 50 years. She has been described as possessing “the soul of Molly Bloom and the s
Jan 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
This novel from 1994 portrays an Ireland caught between its modernising ambitions and its long sad history, against the background of the troubled relations between North and South and the presence of the IRA and other organizations fighting for a united Ireland. The central character is a woman, Josie O'Meara, who after an abusive marriage to a wealthy man lives on in their massive house with its extensive grounds; she is taken captive there by a terrorist/freedom fighter, but gradually she war ...more
Lauren Dostal
Jan 10, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish
I fell in love with Edna O'Brien after hearing her short story, "The Widow" read on the New Yorker fiction podcast. This is the first novel I chose to read by her and it didn't live up to my expectations. The language was beautiful but the story felt like reaching into a box of puzzle pieces, grabbing 20 of them at random and scattering them on a table. There was so much going on--the Widow's story, the various Guards' stories, Mac's story, the random asides from the maid--but the story lines di ...more
Feb 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 02, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fine book. The central story is engaging, but the plotting is often rough and O'Brien's language occasionally impedes the story's progress. And there isn't much story to tell. There's a fair amount of compression (occasionally resulting in cryptic passages) and the novel amounts to a mere 232 pages. A great portion of the book focuses on obsessing over what's passed, bookended by a voice from the present/future. A great deal of beautiful writing arises from this, and in the end its all the emo ...more
Oct 24, 2010 marked it as abandoned
This book did not resonate with me at all and I usually really like Irish authors. Perhaps it was the fact that I was on a tropical island with no cares in the world (except when I was going to have my next mai tai), while the book was set in an isolated, rainy locale and the storyline involved an elderly women being held hostage by an IRA member. The woman has plenty of time to reflect on her abusive marriage.

I just wanted plenty of time to reflect on the sun and surf.
Nov 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ireland
a splendid book (of splendid isolation). o'brien's prose is so musical, like many of her irish counterparts. this is also a fine book exploring the politics of the irish conflict that has taken so many lives and torn countless families apart. o'brien keeps the conflict focused on the human and leaves politics to hang itself.
May 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
definitely recommend this book. It is fearlessly written, from the perspective of an old woman living alone. it alternates b/n bursts of action and some pretty grim violence as it retells her past and the trajectory of the IRA gunman occupying her decrepit home. Fearless b/c she doesn't hesitate to describe anything, or to come up with original, strange descriptions that are haunting.
Jan 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
A riveting, emotionally charged story that examines the political conflicts in Ireland and delves deeply into the human psyche. Edna O'Brien is an incredible author, and is referred to as the "doyenne of Irish literature." This is the first work that I have read by her, and it will not be my last. A dismal, yet compelling read.
Aug 15, 2010 rated it liked it
Since it took place in Northern Ireland, it was great to read on my trip. It's a pretty sad tale of an IRA member hiding out from the Garda, and the friendship he develops with the widow who harbors him.
Dec 28, 2012 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book, despite the fact that it was difficult to follow the story at the beginning. The author switches time frames and characters without much warning so you have to go back and re-read passages to be sure about what is going on.
Jan 28, 2008 added it
Recommended to Kristin by: Carol Harrison
I am currently re-reading this....
Sep 17, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2008
This one just didn't work for me. I'm pretty sure it could get two stars from me if I'd had a professor to help me along with it.
Oct 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-group
One of the first books we have read in book group.
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Edna O’Brien (b. 1930), an award-winning Irish author of novels, plays, and short stories, has been hailed as one of the greatest chroniclers of the female experience in the twentieth century. She is the 2011 recipient of the Frank O’Connor Prize, awarded for her short story collection Saints and Sinners. She has also received, among other honors, the Irish PEN Award for Literature, the Ulysses Me ...more

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