Often a book’s jacket does a better job of describing the plot of a book than what I can come up with, and Ellis Island is one of those books. From the back:
Sweethearts since childhood, Ellie Hogan and her husband, John, are content on their farm in Ireland–until John, a soldier in the Irish Republican Army, receives an injury that leaves him unable to work. forced to take drastic measures in order to survive, Ellie does what so many Irish women in the 1920s have done and sails across a vast ocean to New York City to work as a maid for a wealthy socialite.
Once there, Ellie is introduced to a world of opulence and sophistication, tempted by the allure of grand parties and fine clothes, money and mansions… and by the attentions of a charming suitor who can give her everything. Yet her heart remains with her husband back home. And now she faces the most difficult choice she will ever have to make: a new life in a new country full of hope and promise, or return to a life of cruel poverty… and love.
I really enjoy historical novels that are set in this century; after WWII, the 20s are my second favorite time period. Hemlines have risen, prohibition is in full effect (and fully ignored) and women are earning their own living. Ellie is quite the fish out of water when she arrives in NYC but it doesn’t take long for her to embrace her new life. The contrasts between farm life in Ireland and city life in NYC are vast and seemingly never-ending. Ireland has horse-drawn carts and gossipy neighbors, and Ellie fully embraces cars and living her own life.
The longer she’s away from her husband, the more Ellie yearns to stay in the city, yet familial duty calls her back and while she makes what she feels is the right decision, she also manages to bring some of the city life to her small country existence. Ellie is a character one can admire and sympathize with. The title is a bit misleading, while Ellis Island does appear at a few points in the book, it’s not the central theme of the book.
If you like books with strong central characters in well-drawn settings, Ellis Island is one you should check out.
While Nancy likes reading about the early part of the last century, she’s also happy to have today’s technological advances. She write about her 2 boys, books and life in Colorado at Life With My Boys and Books.