The Linen Queen

Patri­cia Falvey

By – December 15, 2011
Set in North­ern Ire­land dur­ing World War II, The Linen Queen is the sto­ry of beau­ti­ful and flir­ta­tious Sheila McGee, who works in the linen mill in her small town. She and her self­ish, mean moth­er live with a mis­er­able aunt and drunk­en uncle, and Sheila dreams of escape to Eng­land or Amer­i­ca. When she wins the local Linen Queen con­test she thinks it will change her life, but it is the bomb­ing of Belfast by the Jer­ries and the Yan­kee army’s arrival in town that rad­i­cal­ly alter life for Sheila and her fel­low towns­peo­ple. Now she must share her tiny room with a trou­bled teen, a refugee from the Blitz. A rela­tion­ship with a lone­ly Amer­i­can Jew­ish sol­dier opens up her world, and she begins to evolve into a car­ing human being. The author evokes the local Irish lin­go and land­scape beau­ti­ful­ly. Although the sto­ry is slight­ly repet­i­tive, it reveals much about how great world events affect a small, remote town. The book is suit­able for both teens and adults.
Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams is a Cuban-born, Brook­lyn-raised, Long Island-resid­ing mom. She is Hadas­sah Nas­sau’s One Region One Book chair­la­dy, a free­lance essay­ist, and a cer­ti­fied yoga instruc­tor who has loved review­ing books for the JBC for the past ten years.

Discussion Questions

1. Was Sheila jus­ti­fied in want­i­ng to escape her life in North­ern Ireland? 
2. Did she have a duty to stay and take care of her mother? 
3. Should Sheila have giv­en her moth­er the Linen Queen prize money? 
4. How did Ma’s behav­ior shape Sheila’s actions and her view of herself? 
5. How did win­ning The Linen Queen crown change Sheila’s view of her­self, and oth­ers’ view of her? How would her life have been dif­fer­ent if she had not won? 
6. Should Grainne have been more grate­ful to Sheila? 
7. Were Pat­sy and Kath­leen real­ly Sheila’s friends?
8. What was the real rea­son Gavin was angry at Joel? Was it patri­o­tism or jealousy? 
9. Was Gavin a patri­ot or a trai­tor? Did he redeem himself?
10. Did Joel mean it when he told Sheila he would come back for her? 
11. Was Sheila in love with Joel? 
12. Is it pos­si­ble to be in love with two peo­ple at the same time? Was Sheila? 
13. How would Sheila’s life have been dif­fer­ent if she’d gone away with Joel when he first asked her? 
14. Do you think Sheila and Gavin were meant to be togeth­er? Why? Why not? 
15. Did your opin­ion of Sheila change over the course of the sto­ry? How? 
16. How do you think the peo­ple of N.I. were dif­fer­ent before and after the war? 
17. How were Sheila’s Ma and Mrs. Hol­ly­wood dif­fer­ent as mothers? 
18. What would your ver­sion of a Hap­py Ever After” be for Sheila?