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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Women of Magdalene by Rosemary Poole-Carter

Genre: Historical Fiction

Copyright: 2007

Pages: 288

Rating: 4.5 Crowns

Synopsis: After years of serving as a wartime surgeon, Robert Mallory is accustomed to soldiers missing limbs. At the Magdalene Ladies Lunatic Asylum, he learns that the women are missing pieces, not of their bodies, but of their lives. And he finds that his employer, Dr. Kingston, is also missing a part of himself: a conscience.

As Robert comes closer to understanding Kingston's part in the cruel treatment and sudden deaths of certain patients, Kingston abruptly sends him away. Robert must escort a patient, Effie Rampling, to New Orleans, and the journey transforms them both.

Women of Magdalene is at once disturbing, sickening, emotional and powerful but the most profound realisation comes from awareness that this fictionalised story is drawn from abuses and unimaginable horrors suffered by expendable women of this era. While railing at the inhumane behaviour of many in positions of power, I was also saddened by the quiet dignity of some of the poor souls least empowered, and encouraged by the few with compassion and conscience such as Doctor Robert Mallory.

"An affadavit, signed by Kingston, described Mrs Glover in vague terms as temperamental and a cause of unspecified 'distress' to her husband."

Husbands and families disposing of women for such sins as lethargy, violent outbursts, melancholy, refusal of marital duty, for being "quite a trial" and of course as a matter of convenience or to acquire inheritances. Confinement to lunatic asylums, at the cruel mercy of those dispensing bizarre treatments to drive out demons or laudanum to render patients docile was not an uncommon occurrence. Horrified by the practices within this so-called 'sanctuary' Dr Robert Mallory, questions, investigates, and attempts to champion the rights of those unable to protect themselves. Eventually making the ultimate sacrifice in an effort to right the wrongs perpetrated by Dr Kingston & Matron, caretakers of The Magdalene Ladies Lunatic Asylum.

Poole-Carter's writing has a measured, hypnotic quality that recreates the feel of the south, post-civil war, and a dark almost sensual mood laced with an undercurrent of suspense. It compels you to continue reading whilst your stomach recoils in horror and your heart rejoices in the small triumphs of good over evil. I thoroughly recommend this poignant novel to lovers of historical fiction.

Visit Rosemary Poole-Carter's webite to find out more about this author and her work.

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Ladybug said...

Great review, Teddyree! I've added the book on my wishlist even though I'm most certain it will be a painful read.

Sharon said...

This sounds like a powerful and eye opening read. How sad to think that people were treated like that with the apparent blessing of all involved. This will go on my wish list.

Teddyree said...

Ladybug ~ it was sad & disturbing but the mystery/suspense kind of lessened some of the the heartache if that makes sense.

Sharon ~ Yes it certainly made me sad and angry, and glad I wasn't a female back then!

fredamans said...

The cover pulls me right in.... and that is a great start. After reading your summary and review, I have to read this book. It sounds really good. Thanks!

ibeeeg said...

Reading a good historical fiction book can be eye opening. A book, such as this one, can bring home some horrible facts that occurred in history...stuff that we could not fathom now. Many times when I am reading a historical fiction, I find myself saddened by the way things were... especially for women.
Great review Sheree! I am going to read this one.

Muse in the Fog said...

Wow, that sounds like one intense read. I always find it so amazing when an author can pull you in and have you entranced by the book even though it's contents make you so sick and angry. Thanks for the review!

Teddyree said...

fredamans ~ the cover is really haunting isn't it and the content measures up.

ibeeeg ~ I think you'd enjoy this one (not that enjoy is really the right word.) There aren't many time periods in history where I'd have wanted to be a female!

Muse ~ Yes, Poole-Carter's writing certainly did that, I'd like to try some of her other work.

Aths said...

Great review! Not heard of this book, but looks like one more addition to my pile.

Teddyree said...

Aths ~ I hadn't heard of this author until I saw the book recommended on a historical blog 2 years ago. It took me a while to track it down but I'm glad I did!

J.T. Oldfield said...

Wow, this sounds really good!