The story of Esther Doyle is an example of what was happening in Ireland until very recently. Young Esther made the mistake of falling in love and getting pregrnant in Ireland. To keep the family name clean, she is shipped to Dublin where she is forced to work in a laundry with other Magdalens until she gives birth to her baby. In exchange for this work, the nuns in the convent will feed her and give her a place to stay. After her baby is born, the orphanage will take the child into its custody and adopt him/her to other Catholic families. The story is based on actual events, real Magdalens. To read this story it is important to know that at some point and on many occassions, a young women in our world was going through this experience.
This report prepared by Cassandra Ward
Forge, Mar 2002, 14.95, 348 pp.
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.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner