Originally published 1994
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House of Splendid Isolation is a 1994 novel by Irish novelist Edna O'Brien. The novel depicts the relations of an Irish Republican Army terrorist and his hostage, an elderly woman. The novel blends an attempt at thriller, with O'Brien's deep exploration of Irish society. Reception of the novel was not very good, especially in comparison to O'Brien's previous novels.
The New York Times gave a mediocre review calling the novel both "a brave book, and if it does not altogether succeed, [and an] attempt nonetheless [that] merits praise." The review notes that the novel is a "dramatic departure" from O'Brien's typical novels, and in that context of experiment "we see her audacity fail and her elegant prose run badly out of control." The Independent was decidedly negative, writing "there could hardly be a neater illustration of O'Brien's fatal humourlessness, and of the extent to which too much posing as a tragedy queen has turned her deaf to her own bathetic effects."
Publisher's Weekly was slightly more positive, noting that the scenes about McGreevy the terrorist were unsuccessful, but describing the novel on a whole as "Powerful, however, is the elegiac voice on themes of womanly love, the tale's psychological acuity and the re-creation of a haunted landscape." Kirkus Reviews describes it as successful, its "well worth reading as O'Brien's first concentrated treatment of the troubles--and the pain they visit on the Irish people."