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The Lost Child of Philomena Lee: A Mother, Her Son and a 50 Year Search

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  12,443 Ratings  ·  1,568 Reviews
Soon to be a major motion picture starring Judi Dench: the heartbreaking true story of an Irishwoman and the secret she kept for 50 years

When she became pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952, Philomena Lee was sent to a convent to be looked after as a “fallen woman.” Then the nuns took her baby from her and sold him, like thousands of others, to America for adoption. F
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Paperback, 452 pages
Published September 4th 2009 by MacMillan (first published 2009)
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Susan Kavanagh
Mar 02, 2014 Susan Kavanagh rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
As a person who was interviewed for this book and who appears as a “character” in it, I believe this book should be categorized as fiction. The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, written by Martin Sixsmith, was originally published in 2009. After the success of the movie Philomena, the book was reissued with a new title. By now, everyone knows that the book tells the tragic story of Philomena Lee, who had an illegitimate child in the early 1950s while living at an abbey run by nuns in Ireland. An Amer ...more
Rich10633
The movie tie-in is so misleading, it borders on criminal. The book is 95% about the son's life, with his mother's protracted search occupying a miniscule number of pages. The movie trailer and Dame Denches's write-up of the mother's role must be from another role, since Philomena's effort was merely a footnote to the story. The title should be: Michael: A Son, His Mother and His Search for Identity.
Dianne
Nov 20, 2013 Dianne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I watched the film and was deeply moved by Dame Judi Dench's portrayal of Philomena, one of the 1952 Irish Magdalenes. Mother of an illegitimate child, set to work in a convent laundry, whose two year old son was purchased from the Catholic Church by an American couple and taken to America. Despite this, Philomena remains true to the church and unbelievably forgiving. Her search was to find out what became of her Anthony.

Although the book covers the early life of Philomena and her experiences in
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Abbey
Feb 06, 2013 Abbey rated it really liked it
Historically very interesting and incredibly poignant. Particularly so as my mother was born in this place on 1st January 1939. Thankfully, I think my grandmother's sister and brother 'bought' them out when my mother was about two and a half - if they'd left it a few more months, I wouldn't be here! Reinforced my views on the Catholic Church and US Republicans...
Margaret
Dec 12, 2013 Margaret rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Poorly written & really determined to prevent the reader becoming involved in the story. This is a fantastic true story which he totally wastes. It was so hard to force myself to finish it.
He switches tone & point of view & time frame but never for any obvious reason. He keeps blabbing directly or indirectly where / how things will end so there's next to no surprises or dramatic tension. He hints at things but then doesn't follow up. He tells some parts of the search in excruciating
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Paul Lima
Dec 26, 2013 Paul Lima rated it it was amazing
I believe this book is creative non-fiction in that the dialogue has to be made up based on what the author has found out and surmised about 'the lost child.' The movie, Philomena (which I highly recommend) is based on the book. The movie looks at the quest that Philomenia and a former journalist, Martin Sixsmith, go on to find her son -- a son the Irish Catholic church sold to an American couple. The son is one of thousands of children of unwed mothers the church sold.

Sixsmith worked for the BB
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Southern_man
Dec 30, 2013 Southern_man rated it liked it
One of the rare times I would say the movie was better. The middle of the book really bogs down in Mike Hess personal issue with his sexuality. I understand it was all part of the story but I think it went on too long.

If you liked the movie and want to know more about Michael Hess then read the book but there is very little in this story about Philomena.


Ware
Dec 16, 2013 Ware rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Martin Sixsmith a British pol, journalist and historian wrote a fascinating piece about an unwed Irish mother's search for her child whom she was forced to give up for adoption by Irish nuns. The tale is just the kind of tale that inspires indy movie producers to invest in a bit more than the screen-rights and hire Judi Dench to pay the determined mum.

Seeking to capitalize on a very good movie, the 2009 book has been re-released with Dench on the cover. The storyline is excellent. The execution
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Alison DeLory
Apr 26, 2014 Alison DeLory rated it it was ok
This book was disappointing. The story of a child given up unwillingly by his birth mother held great promise for me. Unfortunately the title is entirely misleading. This book is not the story of Philomena but rather 95% of it is about Michael Hess (her son) growing up in America. The writing is not good. The recreated (imagined?) conversations are so flat and boring and clichéd that they are almost funny. The result is that there are no believable characters in a book that purports to be nonfic ...more
Siggy Buckley
Sep 14, 2012 Siggy Buckley rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Priscilla
Dec 18, 2013 Priscilla rated it liked it
First thing first: the movie tie-in version of this book (which is the one I got) is seriously misleading in cutting the title to just 'Philomena'. I bought the book thinking it was all about Philomena's search for her son, and got a little confused when it turned out to be 90% the other way around.

That said, I found this book fascinating. As I was only vaguely familiar with the historical and political context, this was an eye-opening book for me. It's heartbreaking to read the lingering effec
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Terry
Nov 28, 2013 Terry rated it it was ok
Philomena played by Judi Dench is playing in theatres now and getting great reviews. I decided to read the book first and was quite surprised that the mature Philomena Judi Dench plays has almost no presence in the book. Interesting, though very sad, to learn what the Irish Catholic church did to unwed young women and their babies. Cruel and heartbreaking. But this book is mostly dedicated to the life story of Philomena's lost son. Details of his gay sexual life and his conflicted political care ...more
Ellen Gresham
Jun 24, 2013 Ellen Gresham rated it it was amazing
This book is well written, informative, and tells the very sad story of Michael Hess, who was born at a convent in Ireland, adopted by a family in the US, and although successful in his career never was able to feel like he belonged anywhere.
It also reveals the political climate during the early years of the HIV epidemic in a moving personal way from the inside of the Reagan Administration.
Philomena's story also speaks to the religious oppression of the day that seems to have reared it's ugly he
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Leila
Struggled with this book and did not enjoy it.
Bev Mattocks
Nov 17, 2013 Bev Mattocks rated it it was amazing
A truly amazing book. I read all 484 pages over the course of one weekend, absolutely enthralled. And it takes one humdinger of a book to keep me reading these days. I couldn't put this book down.
Eunice Muir
Nov 26, 2014 Eunice Muir rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Eunice by: The film
After watching the film Philomena I got the book from the library, and to cut a long story short, found it to be total rubbish so full of errors that it was practically unreadable except as tabloid 'journalism'. Philomena never traveled to America with the author, and there were no confrontations with the nuns in the convent. Nearly all the events depicted in the film were fiction, although that is not unusual. A few pages at the front and a couple at the back were about Philomena Lee, who in my ...more
Lisa
Feb 17, 2014 Lisa rated it did not like it
The original book title was accurate. It is about the lost child of Philomena Lee. It was reissued as Philomena with the release of the movie of the same name. But the mother is represented in about 20% of the entire book. But that isn't the only falsehood of this mess. It is a work of fiction based on a real story. The mother's story is compelling but the book is about the less interesting story of the son's life after his adoption. This story is told by a journalist who offers zero notes refer ...more
Deirdre Boyle
Feb 12, 2013 Deirdre Boyle rated it it was amazing
Heart wrenching true story which tackles a couple of major social injustices. The first was carried out by the Catholic church in 50’s Ireland to an unmarried pregnant girl Philomena, and subsequently her adored son who she is forced to give up for adoption. The second deals with the Reagan government's ambivalence toward AIDS research and action. There is a movie in the works starring the amazing Judy Dench, so you know it’s worth a read. Box of tissues at elbow though, at all times!
Sara
Dec 12, 2014 Sara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
So different parts of this get different star ratings from me:

4 stars for the heart breaking story of what Philomena went through (although I knew most of it from the movie).
3.5 for the stuff about Michael Hess's work life and the role he played in the redistricting etc. legal efforts that were partially responsible for the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress. Most folks would probably be bored by this stuff though. I'm a political geek.

Unfortunately I was about 25% through the book when I read
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Laura
Nov 12, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it
From IMDb:
A world-weary political journalist picks up the story of a woman's search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.
Beth Lind
Dec 08, 2014 Beth Lind rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First of all, the original title of this book was The Lost Child of Phliomena Lee -- which makes much more sense than just Philomena. Hollywood made an incredible movie based on this movie (loosely based, at times). The movie tells the embellished story of Philomea. The book tells the heartbreaking tale of the son Philomena was forced to give up for adoption.

This book does not paint the Catholic church in a positive light. Verbally condemning unwed mothers, stealing babies and selling them to A
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Claudia
Mar 20, 2014 Claudia rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was so moved by Philomena the movie, that it was with great eagerness that I began reading this book. I hate to be harsh, but I can't hold back: this book is garbage and totally lacks credibility. Both the title and the cover photo suggest that the book's content resembles the movie's content, when in fact the book's focus is on Philomena's son, Anthony Lee, and bears virtually no resemblance to the film. I have no reason to doubt that the basic facts of Anthony's life are accurately depicted ...more
Joy
This is a very compelling, moving book. I will admit to shedding a few tears at the end. I'm looking forward to seeing the movie. I will write more about the book later.

I don't want to give too much away about what happened to Philomena's son. You may already know if you see the movie before reading the book, which I generally don't recommend. I'll just say I was very moved by this book and I highly recommend it.
Ellen
Nov 30, 2013 Ellen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
When she became pregnant as a teen in Ireland, Philomena Lee was sent to a convent to give birth to the baby. Little did naive Philomena realize, the good nuns were charged with finding a good home for her baby and that meant her son Anthony Lee would be sent to America where his name would be changed and he would be lost to her forever. Journalist Martin Sixsmith was contacted in 2004 by a daughter Philomena had when she was later married---a woman who had only heard about this lost brother a y ...more
Ruth Bonetti
Judi Dench owned the film so it's not surprising we look for more of the same in the book. But for once, the film way outstrips the book.
I felt cheated. The title should have retained its original "The Lost Child of Philomena Lee" as there is very little about Philomena in this book, never mind the back cover blurb. OK, we hear about a damaged son in harrowing detail, and given the lies and obfuscations he was fed, we can't blame him. But he has few redeeming or attractive features. Philomena, a
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Kris Springer
Hard book to read--so sad. Gave it a 2 because it's published as NF but the author never really discusses his methodology for expressing the protagonist's most inner thoughts, since he never met him or communicated with him. Additionally, one of his sources excoriates Sixsmith on goodreads. I'm glad I read it, because people should know how the Irish government and Catholic Church dealt with babies in their care.
Melissa
Mar 05, 2013 Melissa rated it it was amazing
While I had little interest in reading this book, I couldn't put it down. It is so much more than just the story of an adopted boy looking for his birth mother. There was so much to discussion at book club from the ugliness of adoptions through the Catholic Church of Ireland in the 1950's to the changing attitudes towards homosexuality through the 70's to today in America. Our book club discussion was one of the best we've had in months.
Jo
Nov 16, 2011 Jo rated it really liked it
What a great book!

Quite a decieving cover and subtitle!

I thought it would be all about unmarried mothers and adoption schemes, but the insight into the US government and the onset of HIV and Aids was extremely informative.

I almost felt the Irish adoption aspect was a side story to the Republican idealism and wage on homosexualality that seemed to be the focus of this book!

Worth reading!

Margaret
This is one time when I preferred the movie to the book. It is hard to understand why the book was named 'Philomena' rather than 'Michael' or 'Anthony'; after all, it seemed to concentrate on Michael's risky behavior. I hope Michael found redemption before he died, but I fear he had become too comfortable in blaming being an orphan for his dark moods. I, too, was an orphan, from birth, yet I managed to deal with it.
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George Martin Sixsmith, British author and journalist.
Sixsmith joined the BBC in 1980 where he worked as a foreign correspondent, most notably reporting from Moscow during the end of the Cold War. He also reported from Poland during the Solidarity uprising and was the BBC's Washington correspondent during the election and first presidency of Bill Clinton. He was based in Russia for five years, the
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