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The Magdalen
by Marita Conlon-Mckenna

Category: Fiction / Historical
348 pages; ISBN: 0765305135

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner

Review

In 1952 Dublin in the birthing room of the Sisters of the Holy Saints Magdalen Home for Wayward Girls and Fallen Women, between contractions Esther Doyle thinks back on how she ended amongst the abandoned. Esther knows that in spite of her family rejection due to her unmarried pregnancy and her lover’s betrayal she is a good person. From western Ireland, since arriving in the grim place, she wonders if she will ever see the ocean with her child.

Esther has earned her room, board, and medical assistance doing laundry while waiting the birth. She knows her child will reside next door in the almost as grim orphanage, but at least the infant will have sustenance. However, she knows her unborn will receive little else as even the nuns reject the infant’s innocence in spite their lofty calling. Still Esther has learned from her sister "Maggies" and dreams of a life for herself with her child outside this convent prison.

With the acceptance of out of wedlock children in recent years, THE MAGDALEN may seem obsolete, but instead, the novel is a powerful historical tale that sheds a light on 1950s morality. The story line brilliantly written in a first person dialogue enables the audience to feel all that Esther feels as she garners empathy from modern day readers to the plights of her and her soon to be born child in a world that condemns even the blameless. Marita Conlon-Mckenna provides fans of mid twentieth century historical novels with a juggernaut of a morality tale that is one of the genre’s best in recent years.

Harriet Klausner

 

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