- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Forge Books; 1st edition (March 6, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765305135
- ISBN-13: 978-0765305138
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,213,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Magdalen Paperback – March 6, 2002
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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From Publishers Weekly
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Holy Saints Magdalen Home for Wayward Girls and Fallen Women was a prisonlike institution in Dublin where unmarried pregnant women were sent in shame until they delivered, after which, without exception, the church took their babies away for adoption. In 1951, Esther Doyle of rural Connemara has no thoughts of such a place when she escapes her grim home life her drunken fisherman father is drowned, and her mother can't cope with Esther's young retarded sister for a brief romance that leaves her pregnant. In desperation, she turns to the Home, where she soon discovers that living conditions are nearly unbearable. The mostly unsympathetic and even cruel nuns oversee a sweatshop-like laundry in which women slave every day except on Sundays. The nuns refer to them as "penitents," but the women sardonically called themselves "Maggies." Through it all, the women are bolstered by their camaraderie. After Esther has her baby, reluctantly surrendering it, she leaves but refuses to return to her family, which has rejected her. The first half of the book, telling of Esther's beginnings, rings true, but it is familiar and overlong. The real tale is the story of the Magdalen Home, a cruel institution the church maintained into the mid-20th century. The straightforward writing is without flourish, but the story is powerful and moving and Esther's unhappy experience will remain with the reader. (Mar.)same story was dramatized by Patricia Burke Brogan in a popular play, Eclipsed, first performed in Great Britain in 1992.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
“This book pulls no punches . . . Marita Conlon-McKenna is breaking new ground with The Magdalen.” ―Image
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Top customer reviews
I had been somewhat disappointed by a seeming lack of depth, because Esther's thoughts and emotions are not really explored, and other characters seemed peripheral. Yet the action speaks for itself. For example, the bulk of the story concerns Esther's period of residence in the Magdalen laundry, and one sees her struggle with considering options, and having conflicting feelings about all elements of her life.
The underlying theme - where punishment and atonement colour every consideration from the sermon at a funeral to the cold, cruel treatment of the residents - is sadly all too realistic. The book is not a horror story (squeamish readers, especially in light of some recent news stories about Irish Catholic institutions, may wish to know that The Magdalen contains no sexual abuse and little corporal punishment), but is utterly chilling. Esther, initially grateful that the nuns offer refuge when no one else will deal with her, grows to see no Christian love at all in her treatment. Yet the constant (and highly accurate, sad to say) presentation of how sufficient penance means salvation gives an underlying sense that those involved might have thought they were 'cruel to be kind' in leading others to salvation.
Without giving out a spoiler, may I add that it answered a question I'd long harboured: why women who are in such misery (and who are free to leave - this is not serving a prison sentence, for all that the conditions seem those of a reformatory) would sometimes elect to remain at the laundries rather than get another try at a decent life.
It is a fascinating work which I devoured in an afternoon, surprisingly engrossing for all that the themes are very subtly expressed. The characters are not drawn in great depth, and Esther seems an enigma, but it is an excellent tale of conflict.
Esther Doyle meets Con at a dance and falls in love. When she becomes pregnant, he deserts her, and Esther is sent to a convent laundry by her furious mother and brothers. As all the girls are, she is treated terribly. She longs for escape, but also wants to keep her baby girl. The child is taken by the nuns.
This is a very arresting well-written story. recommended.