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Showing 1-10 of 1,176 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 1,397 reviews
on December 31, 2013
I really enjoyed the movie version with Judi Dench and Steven Coogan and was a little surprised when a one-star reviewer claimed how inferior the Martin Sixmith (played in the movie by Coogan) book is to the movie. I want to take issue with that assessment. The movie—which is wonderfully done—is only a slice of the whole. The movie is focused upon Philomena Lee with very little about the son she lost to an American family whereas the book is much more about the one, Anthony, who becomes Michael Hess.

The evilness of Archbishop McQuaid in Ireland is not part of the movie. So reading this book has given me a much broader view of what happened, of just how truly horrific this archbishop was and how terrible the Catholic Church was as an institution dealing with unwed mothers and their babies. The Irish government quite literally allowed for the selling of these babies and never allowing the mothers to have their own children. The church treated these young women as though they were Hester Prynne—marked for life as sinners.

The book is primarily about the two children who are adopted by Doc and Marge Hess who have three biological sons. Marge has a brother who becomes a bishop, a very kind man, a real counterbalance to the evil McQuaid. The reader is given a chronological look at the life of Michael within this family, within the American Catholic church, with a lot of dialogue which, of course, has to have been created by Sixsmith. We don’t really know too much about his sources. But I read the book the same way I would read a novel.

In the movie we know little about Michael’s motivation to see his biological mother whereas in the book a lot is made of his efforts. In fact as I read the book I thought this: there should be two movies: “Philomena” and a second titled “Michael.” We experience his struggles with his homosexuality in an era when coming out was often dangerous. We experience him as a high schooler who loved singing and performing in musicals. And as an excellent student at Notre Dame and then as a law student at George Washington University. And then his struggles as a closeted Republican during the Reagan years when he was so involved in Washington politics.
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on December 5, 2013
I saw the film on Thanksgiving evening and was captivated by the story so I rushed home and ordered the book. I've given it three stars only because it was interesting, but the film is better. The film tells the story from Philomena's viewpoint while the book tells the story from Anthony/Michael's side of things. There is very little of Philomena's story in the book and that was disappointing. The factual/historical details of the HIV/AIDS outbreak and the government's lack of timely reaction to such a medical crisis was informative, but I would save my money and just see the film instead for a heartwarming story with exceptional acting by Judy Dench.
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on March 15, 2014
I enjoyed the movie, but this book was not really about Philomena. I gave up about 2/3 of the way through and discovered that only the very final chapter or two of the book were about Philomena and her search. As I read the fictionalized story of Michael Hess, it seemed an odd choice for the author to structure the book as a fictionalized narrative. Much of the book is conversational, which by its very nature must be made up by the author since he was not a fly on the wall. I expected the book to be about Philomena and her search, but it finally dawned on me that the author had a political agenda. The movie was wonderful, and left me wondering and wanting to read more. This book did not answer any of the questions I had, and it was disappointing to say the least. I usually finish what I start but my time is valuable and I did not enjoy what I read. It took me over a month to wade through approximately 250 pages. Ugh.
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on March 10, 2014
This book is a disgrace to the dignity of both Philomena and her son. The character development is cheap and void of depth. 1/16 non-fiction, the rest fictionalized, and the absolute biggest lie is the jacket cover. The man sitting next to her is not her son, and it depicts a "search" that never even happened. Yet, the author is outraged at the lies and cheating done to Philomena. The story does not focus on Philomena's search for her son but her son's adult life in the US. It includes a continuous rant on the Catholic Church that is cliché; bitchy-knuckle-wrapping nuns included. Revisionist history does not take into account how society degraded and shamed unmarried women making the entire experience traumatic and heart wrenching. At least the nuns made a safe place for young mothers and their babies. No one else willingly came to their rescue. Mistakes were made all around, but even Philomena said she could not have provided for her son or given him the life he was able to eventually live. Still, lessons are not learned. Our “modern” society continues to shame women for having children, for not having children, for keeping children, for adopting children out, for aborting children, for not aborting children. Women are shamed if they are sexual or if they are chaste. Since the beginning of time, religion or no religion, one way or another, women’s sexuality has always been suspect and subject to control. Martin Sixsmith - go to confession with the rest of us sinners.
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on January 28, 2014
If you are reading this because of the film - don't. Hollywood does it again and although the basic start and end maybe the same the way the content is put it is not. For a great deal of the book it feels like a trip through the gay bars of the United States.
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on March 4, 2014
Historical events to this epic tale spanned 5 decades which gave authenticity to this non-fiction. Another notch in the already egregious list of crimes committed by the Catholic Church was revealed in this tale. It set the wheels in motion for readers to follow the fate of a man born in an abbey in Ireland but was forcibly fostered to an American family against the wishes of an unwed mom. He became a successful lawyer with the Republican Party but lead a closeted homosexual lifestyle and an addiction to unsafe activities that eventually ravaged his life prematurely. His ashes were returned to the his birth place to be buried 43 years later by which his biological mother came across by chanceT. Some readers may find this novel uncomfortably intimate because the Mike/Anthony exhibited all the stereotypes from childhood to manhood to define who he was, his sexuality, demons, needs, desires etc etc....yes human, flawed like everyone else, with human needs. Like all of us, Anthony/Michael needed to love and be loved.
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on March 10, 2014
I was unhappy with the content. The man had died so I feel much of what was written was the authors imagination of what Michael was thinking at times. I did not find it an enjoyable read at all. It was our book club choice. I would not have finished if I didn't have to.
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on February 15, 2014
Not even close to what I expected. Minimal story about a 'search' Just a story of a gay guy. Don't care that he was gay, it just wasn't about a 'mother's 50 year search for her son'.
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on January 30, 2014
The major part of the book concerned the son's life and not about the mother's search for him. Very disappointed|||
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on March 17, 2014
I expected this book to be about Philomena's search for her son. Instead it was almost entirely about her son. Disappointing.
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