Dianne's Reviews > Philomena: A Mother, Her Son And A Fifty Year Search

Philomena by Martin Sixsmith
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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 Roscrea as a young unmarried mother, most is based on the life of her son, Michael Hess, so it complements the film, or to be accurate, the film complements the book. It is a warts and all account of high achievement and degradation with Michael helping the Reagan administration and working for the homophobic Republican party, while a closet homosexual. His tastes took him into the dangerous activities and clubs resulting in HIV.

The stranglehold the Catholic church had over the Irish government and society in the early years of the last century are made very clear and one has to feel immense sadness for the thousands of Magdalenes and their infants. However, I found sections of the book boring, tediously repetitive. A little more about Philomena and a little less of Michael relationships, both stable and unstable would make for a more balanced book.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
November 14, 2013 – Finished Reading
November 20, 2013 – Shelved
November 20, 2013 – Shelved as: biography

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by Betsy (new)

Betsy Unfortunately, the Catholic Church was doing this all over the world, that is, taking babies from their powerless or slaughtered mothers. This was especially true in Chile and Guatemala. Under Pinochet a priest called Father or Bishop Plaza arranged the adoptions of hundreds of babies whose mothers had been kidnapped, tortured and killed by the police. Then the church stepped in and sold or gave the newborns to childless friends of the regime. In Guatemala indigenous mothers were slaughtered by the U.S. trained death squads their babies and children taken to Catholic orphanages and sold to U.S.A. couples. This should be called what it is: human trafficking, kidnapping, genocide and slavery carried out by the catholic church. The Magdalene Ins'ts were nothing but slave labor camps and no individual can bestow forgiveness on the Catholic Church even if monetary reparations were made. Their crimes were so long-standing and atrocious that no one has the right to offer exoneration for the suffering they have visited on others. They have never paid for their crimes or even admitted their guilt.


message 2: by Blanaid (new)

Blanaid Hoffman Sean Ross Abbey where Philomena had her son, wasn't a Magdalene Laundry, it was a Mother and Baby Home. There IS a difference.


Dianne Thanks. You are probably correct, but in this Mother and Baby home she worked very long hours in a laundry six days a week with a one hour break to see her son. The hours were long and she was not paid. Three years of unpaid labour and the loss of her son were regarded as financial compensation for the care she received. Her labour was difficult, a breech which was turned late. No analgesics as pain is a just reward for her sin, and her tear was left unrepaired. No doctor or trained midwife for what was a long and complicated birth.


Shell The Belle @ Betsy and Diane - I agree with everything you both said. Betsy it is a disgrace that the Catholic church is allowed to continue at all given all is indiscrestions (for want of a much stronger word) that are STILL going on to this day - almost every few months we hear of yet another scandal surrounding Priests (or higher) and their sexual interfering of boys.
Jesus Christ himself must weep when he see's what has been created as a church to represent him.


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