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The Magdalen

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  940 ratings  ·  65 reviews
The wide open spaces of Connemara, filled with nothing but sea and sky, are all lost to Esther Doyle when she is betrayed by her lover, Conor. Rejected by her family, she is sent to join the 'fallen women' of the Holy Saints Convent in Dublin where, behind high granite walls, she works in the infamous Magdalen laundry while she awaits the birth of her baby.

At the mercy of
Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 6th 2002 by Forge Books (first published October 1st 1999)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  940 ratings  ·  65 reviews

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Clare O'Beara
Well done to this Irish author for her bravery and support of women. This account of a fictional young woman's time in the Magdalene Laundries in the 1950s was written in 1999, before the Irish State had been forced to issue a fulsome apology to all the women so wronged.

Esther lives in a rural community in Connemara and with little excitement or world experience, her head is easily turned by a handsome lad who arrives to work a nearby spinster's farm. This portion of the book actually rings ver
Helga Soenimanggar
Aug 07, 2007 rated it liked it
when i read this book then thanks God i am in Indonesia, and not in her place. even not really diferent in here, religious people sometime can be bad. but the way she lived and handle her problem can make me be strong too. you go girl. sometimes man always be coward and not take for responsibility for what he have done, hiding in his blancket!!!and for man like that,,hmhm,, just go to hell,, and u wasn't man enough and don't call yourself a man if you can't take responsibilty for what you've don ...more
Mar 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Last week I received this book in the mail from the informal book group --- and had not ever heard of it. So, I read a few pages and found myself instantly concerned and interested in the lead character, Esther. It is a fast read, and I can see why it was a best seller in Ireland.
P.S. I am glad I am not Catholic and did not grow up when she did.
Sep 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the second book I've read by Marita Conlon-McKenna. She has a very engaging story-telling style, and as someone who prefers nonfiction, I'm impressed. Her story here is a hard one, of an unwed pregnant young woman in 1950's Ireland who has few options but to enter a home for unwed mothers. The Magdalen(e) homes are run by nuns who are often harsh and punitive. Some of the parts of the story were painful to read, but there were also enjoyable parts, with great character development and in ...more
Patti Thomas
May 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
After seeing the movie "Philomena," I was interested in these young women of Ireland - "Maggies." I loved this book, following the story of Esther and the others taken in by the nuns and the difficulties they endured while in their care. My heart goes out to all the women who actually went through this experience.
mois reads
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

What to write those poor people left In the magdalen laundries cast out by there families and left in the nuns care I wouldn't put an animal in there care it is hard to read but there stories must be told 5 stars.
Esther Turner
May 30, 2020 rated it did not like it
Couldn't finish....nothing exceptional and did not hold my interest.
Kathleen Anthony
The magdalen

Brilliant read really enjoyed this book looking forward to reading more thoroughly enjoyed it well worth a read thank you
May 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
For about five years now, I've had a private list on Amazon known as "the library list", as it was simply for me to be able to keep track of what books I'd look for/request from the library. Recently, I decided I should go to the earlier pages of the list, and see what still interested me.

This one was on the list since mid-summer 2008, having learned about it after reading Ann Patchett's 'The Patron Saint of Liars'. (The memory's working well today! LOL)

Anyways, I snuck this one in despite not
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I did not like this book. It was crafted well, and the prose is passable, but it lacks something. I can't put my finger on the problem, but I do think the ending was terribly clipped. It just ends abruptly, without building up to the finale. You know it's the end because it's the last page, not because the drama was resolved in some way.
Jenee Rager
Esther Doyle has never had what anyone would call an easy life. Her family lives hand to mouth in Ireland. When her mother gives birth to her youngest sister, and her father dies shortly afterwards, Esther is often left in charge of running the household and carrying for her little sister with disabilities.

As she enters her late teens she falls in love with a man named Conor and gives in to the temptation of romance. She finds herself pregnant, around the same time as Conor ends their relations
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
Unfortunately this book took me a while to read because I struggled to pick it back up whenever I put it down. Given the subject matter I'm afraid I found it weak and lacking depth. The way women like Esther were treated is a very dark part of Ireland's history, but the poverty, cruelty and tragedies that Esther faced are passed over quite quickly, with no real lasting sense of suffering or even atmosphere. A couple of my family members have enjoyed it, and there is nothing wrong with it as such ...more
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I devoured this book

Its not your usual Magdalene tale with theming and work being described in a far gentler manner than is the norm. You feel the sense of sisterhood that develops between the girls and find yourself wanting only the best for them. The one thing I can complain about is the ending because I wanted a significantly different outcome for the main character and a lovely family man.
It was interesting reading a Martina Conlon-McKenna book after so long. The last book of hers was Under The Hawthorn Tree in primary school. The voice of Esther is very believable and the book was a good read. I did feel though it possibly was softer depiction of what life in the laundries would have been like. Anyway it’s worth a read.
chlorinda naish
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

So awful what the Magdalen ladies went through, what is worse it is all true, thank God things have moved on since then, hopefully, the Nuns thought they were doing their best, I wonder how many are still alive and remember the way the ladies were treated.
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book

Loved this from the start,I kept saying to myself just another 10 mns,
but it would go on longer,reading till late but loved the book,very sad
as I know a lot of these stories,are based on truth.a good read very enjoyable all the characters,all were good in the story.
jennifer gardenier
A good read

Would have been a bit better will a more detailed ending.just a few pages more would have finished the story off a lot better.
judith green
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great story

A lovely story, very real and sad too. Very well written and a book you did not want to put down.
Cathleen Browning
May 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Good beach read. Predictable except for ending.
Clare Ogden
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book, well worth reading. Real events of those times.
Cdn Reader (Inactive)
While plainly told, this book provides insight into the experience of thousands of unwed mothers and other "undesirable" women in the Ireland of the last century. Sent off to convents, the women more or less became slaves in huge laundries, and many spent entire lives there--becoming well aware of the underbelly of Irish life as they washed bed sheets and undergarments, including those of the well-to-do and the clergy. Conlon McKenna's book relates the story of young, naive Esther Doyle and her ...more
Sabrina Rutter
Aug 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I have seen this book on Amazon several times while looking for memoirs about women who have lived inside the Magdalen laundry facilities. I never bought this one becuase I thought it might not touch on my emotions as much as a true story would. Well, I ended up finding this at my local Goodwill so I decided I would go ahead and read it. I'm really glad I did! I stayed up way past my normal bedtime becuase I just couldn't bring myself to put this book down!
The Magdalen is about Esther a country
Feb 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Magdalen Laundries in Ireland were state-sanctioned work houses run by nuns where young girls and women were sent who had shamed their families, primarily by becoming pregnant out of wedlock. The "Maggies" worked for no wages in very poor conditions, enduring mistreatment and hardship. Marita Conlon-McKenna used her conversations with survivors of the laundries to create this well-written novel about the fictional character, Esther Doyle, and her experiences at the Sisters of the Holy Saints ...more
Oct 12, 2015 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
What I found most refreshing in this story is that no character is devoid of humanity. We see the human face of the cad, of the nuns, of the Maggies themselves. It is without the worst documented cases of cruelty and provides a very balanced look at the life of a fictional Maggie, who begins her life in Connemara and journeys to Dublin. The narrative deals mostly with the relationship between women often pitted in opposition to each other in the heavily patriarchal, Catholic society of 1940s and ...more
Jun 24, 2015 rated it liked it
This was a pretty uncomplicated book. Its the story of a woman who got pregnant out of wedlock in Ireland and was closeted away to save face for the family. Even if the story itself is not fact, elements of it are reflected in the historical treatment of unwed mothers.

The main character is easy to relate to and at times it can stir the reader's anger at how this poor woman is treated, regardless of the time period's culture. The book presents only one point of view and it isn't a charitable one
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
The book begins with Esther delivering her mother's baby. Although it is just a simple story about a certain time period in the life of a young Irish girl in the 1950s, the author's very accurate and sensory description of the everyday ups and downs of a life keeps the reader's attention throughout the novel. When Esther becomes pregnant herself, she is sent from her small Irish town to a monastery that houses young pregnant and unwed mothers of all ages and walks of life, and the orphanage for ...more
Jun 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
A sad book, especially since it's based on real life events - but so wonderful. It tells the story of the convents where girls were sent in Ireland if they became pregnant- some women ended up spending their entire lives there, working for the nuns, after being forced to give up their children to the orphanage.

I loaned it to every woman in my family and as Irish Catholics I think we may have been particularly affected by it - but no matter who you are it's a really amazing book.
Jap Hengky
Dec 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: in-the-shelf
It shows how the girls in the 1940s were treated if they got pregnant. Every page had something that you think would never happen. Until I read this book I didn’t realise the mental torment suffered by women with unexpected pregnancies. It shows how the times have changed. If a girl like Esther got pregnant in today's society she would not be sent away. But it was a good thing that there was a place for her to go - in her time it was a way of avoiding the neighbours gossip and such.
Denise Kruse
Apr 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Heartbreaking. Another take on the infamous laundries run by Catholic Sisters in Ireland; the first I experienced was the documentary and the film, The Magdalene Sisters. This novel by Marita Conlon-McKenna is told beautifully. The reader fully experiences this unfair and nightmarish chapter of young Esther’s life. One can’t help but root for her. Engaging from beginning to end.
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Born in Dublin in 1956 and brought up in Goatstown, Marita went to school at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Mount Anville, later working in the family business, the bank, and a travel agency. She has four children with her husband James, and they live in the Stillorgan area of Dublin.
Marita was always fascinated by the Famine period in Irish history and read everything available on the subject.

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