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Rebecca McCormick. Powered by Blogger.

Fallen by Mel O'Doherty - Review

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

 


I bought this book a few weeks ago at a publisher's fair in Manchester that Lee and I went along to. It was really cool to see a bunch of indie publishers and I looked at lots of books, but came away with just three. I picked this one up because of the religious iconography - that definitely caught my eye. My undergraduate degree was in Theology and Religious Studies and it's been something I've been interested in since. This book is about the Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland and the ensuing scandal that came out only a few years ago, this is a subject that I already know something about and am interested in. So I bought the book and then picked it up just a few days later!

The book is about the Connolly family. Mum Elaine, Dad Martin, and Michael, their son. The book goes backwards and forwards in time which I sometimes found confusing and hard to deal with, but I persisted and I'm glad I did. At the beginning Michael is only nine years old and the family is on holiday in the south wear of Ireland, not too far from their home in Cork. Elaine sees a man that she seems to vaguely know, and has some kind of breakdown. 

She starts to talk about what happened to her in Bessborough Mother and Baby Home. She says how the nuns killed her baby and how they burnt her breast to stop her from feeding the baby - an abuse for which she still bears the scar. Michael and Martin both don't believe her. She is diagnosed with manic depression and over the next three years she continues to talk about the abuses she suffered. She writes letters to the newspaper which Martin never posts, and she protests outside Mass about her dead baby. She's increasingly hard to live with and Michael struggles with her. When he is twelve, she takes her own life. 

Michael makes friends with a lad called John when he's a teenager. John has been expelled for fighting at his private school, because he is an illegitimate child and gets called a bastard by other pupils. He ends up at Michael's school and the two form a friendship that lasts over thirty years. However, Michael, ashamed by what happened to his mother, never tells John about her. 

When he is forty-five, Michael is a history teacher in a high school on the north side of Cork. The north side is where his mother came from, it's the 'rougher' side of town. And then of course the news breaks about the scandals carried out by the Catholic Church in Mother and Baby Homes and in Magdalene Laundries and so on. Michael realises that his mother was telling the truth all along. In Bessborough Mother and Baby Home, the rate of infant mortality was as high as 75%. The babies were thrown in unmarked graves. Elaine was clearly left broken by the experience which she didn't have the tools to deal with in the late 70s.

The end of the book shows Elaine's experiences, both in the home and immediately afterwards, up to when she met Martin and married him. I really liked this part of the book and am glad it was included, even though it is so painful. 

I liked the book a lot, I found the structure a bit difficult and also kept getting confused between Michael and Martin, but I did like the subject matter. I'm giving this four out of five. 

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