Title: The Magdalen Girls
Author: V. S. Alexander
Format: eBook, courtesy of NetGalley and Kensington Books
Start Date: September 5, 2017
End Date: September 12, 2017
Rating: 3.5-4 stars
“Welcome to your new home – for as long as is necessary to expiate your sins.”
V.S. Alexander’s novel The Magdalen Girls is set in 1962 Dublin, Ireland. The Sisters of the Holy Redemption, a convent of the Catholic Church, is a place for “fallen” women to have a chance for redemption from their sins through hard labor, reflection, and prayer. The lives of a Magdalen was difficult. Not only did they have to endure long hours working in the stifling laundries, but they had little chance of returning to the rest of society, and even if they did, their reputation would be ruined.
The Magdalen Girls follows the lives of three girls: Teagan Tiernan, whose innocent flirtations invoked lustful longings of a priest; Nora Craven, who was accused of being too “loose” with her boyfriend; and Lea, a reclusive and mysterious girl who was sent to the Sisters when she could no longer be cared for. They find solace in each other and together seek to find a way to escape their prison.
This story vaguely reminded me of Sarah Domet’s The Guineveres, mainly because both were set in Catholic convents. However, The Magdalen Girls – as a story particularly about “fallen women” – felt more desperate, harsher, and overall filled with less hope.
These girls had to endure so much, all in the name of God and redemption of their souls. It was heartbreaking to read about these girls (Teagan and Nora) being dragged away in the middle of the night to the convent by parents who assumed the worst in them, at the tender, and at the tender, young age of sixteen years old. Every bit of hope was cruelly torn away from them, and their lives became a series of devastation after devastation. Even one girl’s chance of happiness at the end came at a heavy cost.
This book was a terrible reminder of how far women have come in the last 55 years, as well as how the how the impact of the Catholic Church has changed. These girls, though not all were wrongly accused, were ostracized by society, made to work hard labor, and had their reputations ruined in the name of redeeming their sinful souls in the eyes of God. It’s hard to imagine something like this occurring today.
*I received a copy of this eBook from NetGalley and Kensington Books in exchange for an honest review!*