Ellis Island, Paperback
4 out of 5 (5 ratings)


Rural Irish girl Ellie loves living in New York, working as a lady's maid for a wealthy socialite.

She tries to persuade her husband, John, to join her but he is embroiled in his affairs in Ireland, and caught up in the civil war.

Nevertheless Ellie is extremely happy and fully embraces her sophisticated new life.

When her father dies she must return home, but she intends to sort her affairs quickly and then return to her beloved America.

But once home her sense of duty kicks in and she decides, painfully, that she must stay to look after her mother and resume her marriage.

Ellie is suddenly thrown into the simple, rural life she believed she had grown out of...




Free Home Delivery

on all orders

Pick up orders

from local bookshops


Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.

Review by

Ellie grows up running in fields and climbing trees with her friend John in Ireland, and it isn’t unpredictable that as they become teenagers, they fall in love. Ellie is at boarding school while John goes away to Dublin, ostensibly for an apprenticeship, but it’s not long before he’s embroiled in the Irish civil war. John and Ellie marry against their parents’ wishes, and soon John is injured in action. Nursing her husband back to health takes its toll on Ellie, and she finds herself the recipient of an invitation from a friend to work as a housemaid in New York. Anxious to scrape together the money that will get John walking again, and despairing of her poverty-stricken life in Ireland, Ellie decides to go to America for a year.In New York, Ellie lands on her feet, making a living and a new life for herself. She conveniently bumps into the same wealthy man several times over the course of months, and finds herself fighting her own emotions. This part of the story grated slightly; she seemed to be angry with John for his unwillingness to come to America as she asked, and seemed not to be very much in love with him any more. I didn’t really understand why she chose to return to Ireland, although at the same time it felt sadly predictable. Passable, but probably not worth all the rave reviews.

Review by

This is the story of Ellie, a girl who marries her childhood sweetheart, but leaves him to go and work in New York so that she can earn money to send home for him to pay for an operation on his leg, after he is injured during the Irish civil war.The first part of the book is about Ellie's childhood and her relationship with John. I enjoyed the descriptions of Irish life in the early part of the 20th century and the civil war, although there wasn't a great deal of information about the latter. Then the story moves onto Ellie's time in New York, a total contrast in her way of life and an exciting time for her. I felt the author was able to convey Ellie's initial despair at being in a new and vibrant land, and then her new-found love for the place.The story is told completely in the first person by Ellie herself. This gave it a personal touch, that of a woman telling her story, but it also sometimes felt a little sparse and like she was just giving an overview of her life. However, it makes for a nice, easy and untaxing read, and one in which the reader can be immersed for the duration of the book. Definitely recommended.

Review by

Rural life in Ireland vs high life in New York.My main problem with this book is not the book itself but the excess of information we are given on the back cover. I would have preferred to have been left wondering what decision Ellie would make - whether to embrace her newfound life in New York or return to her childhood sweetheart and the hardships of her native Ireland. If you feel the same way then read no further and don't read the back of the book!******************************************************************************************************************Unfortunately, we knew from the start that Ellie is drawn back to "the power of home and blood and old love", and for me, that was the wrong decision - I wanted her to stay in New York. Perhaps I am influenced by my own past - having left UK for a new life in Dubai I could relate to the excitement of New York and was frustrated by John's refusal to give it a go and at least make an informed decision.Of course, the money she'd made in US did help alleviate many of the hardships they had suffered in the early days, so she wasn't entierly returning to the old life.The characterisations were good but sometimes a little shallow; Ellie's mother, in particular, frustrated me. Having said that, the descriptions of the hardships of Ireland, contrasted to the bright life of NY, were excellent - and perhaps contributed to my feeling that she should have stayed. The book is worth the read for these images alone.I was also fascinated by the lack of class distinction in 20's New York, the fact that an intelligent, hard working young girl could raise herself from servitiude to wealthy, independent living with such apparent ease - and I think it will be that image that stays with me from this book.

Review by

I had heard Ellis Island being mentioned as ‘being a book you’d like if you enjoyed [Colm Toibin’s] Brooklyn’. I really enjoyed Brooklyn, so I thought I’d read it. However, don’t trust what you hear- although this book has vague similarities to Brooklyn (namely Irish girl goes to America), that where the comparison stops. Firstly, Ellis Island is set earlier, during the War of Independence, so our main character Ellie, steps foot in New York in the 1920s. Secondly, Ellie is married with an injured husband to support. I should backtrack to give you an overall idea of the plot – it quickly explains Ellie’s restricted upbringing in Ireland and her hasty (but loving) marriage to John, a boy she’s known since childhood. Her parents cast her out after hearing of her marriage (she was meant to be joining a convent) and Ellie and John live in a small cottege in the woods. Money is scarce and when John is wounded during the war, Ellie goes to America to work as a lady’s maid to save money for John’s operation. It will only be for one short year…or not. Ellie finds life in America to be free and cheerful in comparison to home. She makes good friends, earns good money and doesn’t want to come back to Ireland. She is eventually forced back by circumstances, but will she stay?I found Ellie a very likeable character who desperately wants to fit in with her neighbours, but is not sure how to go about doing it. I found John to be rather frustrating at times (particularly later in the book) but his reasoning for being so stubborn is understandable. The story flows well, and I didn’t find myself skimming over any parts. I think it’s a light and interesting representation of the Irish and American people at that time.I finished this book very quickly, as I was reading almost every moment that I had. I’m also excited to hear that there’s a sequel in the works – is Ellie happy with her decision?If you enjoy historical novels dealing with love, family, religion and happiness, pick this book up. It’s a lot happier than Brooklyn and has a definite resolution.

Review by

This started slow for me, painting a picture of Ellie’s childhood in Ireland, and her friend John, who later became her husband. They have difficulty making ends meet, and when John is injured in the War of Independence, Ellie follows a friend to the US to earn money for an operation that they hope will allow him to walk again. She intends to be there only for a year, but falls in love with life in America in the 1920s, and asks John to come out to join her. This is when the book became gripping for me. Ellie no longer feels that the life that she would have in Ireland would satisfy her, and yet John can’t bear the thought of leaving the place where his roots are, and the country that he sustained his injury fighting for. I really felt for both of them, and was completely engrossed in the latter half of the book as this story unfolded …

Also by Kate Kerrigan   |  View all