Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Women Of Magdalene by Rosemary Poole-Carter

Genre: Historical Fiction
Copyright: 2007
Pages: 288
Book Source: Own purchase for Kindle

After years of serving as a wartime surgeon, Robert Mallory is accustomed to soldiers missing limbs. At the Magdalene Ladies Lunatic Asylum, he learns that the women are missing pieces, not of their bodies, but of their lives. And he finds that his employer, Dr. Kingston, is also missing a part of himself: a conscience.

As Robert comes closer to understanding Kingston's part in the cruel treatment and sudden deaths of certain patients, Kingston abruptly sends him away. Robert must escort a patient, Effie Rampling, to New Orleans, and the journey transforms them both.

My Review:
Women of Magdalene is at once disturbing, sickening, emotional and powerful but the most profound realisation comes from awareness that this fictionalised story is drawn from abuses and unimaginable horrors suffered by expendable women of this era. While railing at the inhumane behaviour of many in positions of power, I was also saddened by the quiet dignity of some of the poor souls least empowered, and encouraged by the few with compassion and conscience such as Doctor Robert Mallory.

"An affadavit, signed by Kingston, described Mrs Glover in vague terms as temperamental and a cause of unspecified 'distress' to her husband."

Husbands and families disposing of women for such sins as lethargy, violent outbursts, melancholy, refusal of marital duty, for being "quite a trial" and of course as a matter of convenience or to acquire inheritances. Confinement to lunatic asylums, at the cruel mercy of those dispensing bizarre treatments to drive out demons or laudanum to render patients docile was not an uncommon occurrence. Horrified by the practices within this so-called 'sanctuary' Dr Robert Mallory, questions, investigates, and attempts to champion the rights of those unable to protect themselves. Eventually making the ultimate sacrifice in an attempt to right the wrongs perpetrated by Dr Kingston & Matron, the caretakers of The Magdalene Ladies Lunatic Asylum.

Poole-Carter's writing has a measured, hypnotic quality that recreates the feel of the south, post-civil war, and a dark almost sensual mood laced with an undercurrent of suspense. It compels you to continue reading whilst your stomach recoils in horror and your heart rejoices in the small triumphs of good over evil. I thoroughly recommend this poignant novel to lovers of historical fiction.

Visit Rosemary Poole-Carter's webite to find out more about this author and her work.



  1. Wow, this sounds really interesting! Great review! :)

  2. If they still treated women like that now, I think I would have been locked up years ago!

    This sounds like a really powerful read. I wonder if I might find it too upsetting though.

  3. Jeez! Not the book I will read right away! But it really has struck a chord and I m sure I will look out for it :)

    Great review girl!

  4. Katy ~ thanks, this was quite an eye-opener, made me sad and angry!

    Viv ~ you and me both LOL. While it was a sad read, the mystery kept it from being overwhelmingly so, if that makes sense?

    Veens ~ thanks, this is my first by this author, I'll certainly be looking out for more!

  5. Great review :)
    But sad, can't deal with sad sometimes

  6. What a review! Your description of the book "at once disturbing, sickening, emotional and powerful" is - well, powerful.

    I love Historical Fiction and am going to check on this one.

  7. Very powerful review!! Sad that women were threatened with asylums if they didn't "behave" or cooperate!

  8. Wow! I must read this. Thanks! Books that take place in "lunatic" or "insane" asylums are one of my special interests.

  9. Wow! This is an aspect of history I've never read about. I am adding this to my TBR list.

  10. Lock away for being lethargic!?
    I wouldn't have been a free person for very long!

    Sounds like a very emotional read.
    Great review - very strong.

  11. Great review! This is one area of history I have been really interested in, so I will for sure be looking for this one. The disposability of women during this particular time period is chilling.

  12. Great review Sheree, although sounds like difficult subject matter to read. Would have to be in the right mood for it I think.

  13. So, this book sounds really intense. Would it make me want to throw the book against the wall only to rush over to pick it up so that I could finish it anyway? It sounds like it would. I'm interested. If I spot it in my used bookstore I'll definitely pick it up.

  14. Beautiful ecover!
    I've reaserched the history of pysch care so I can only imagine what you read. Compelling plot though. thanks for the recommendation!

  15. that is a marvelous review. i love your description of the writing. have you read 'the female malady' by elaine showalter? it explores the unhappy history of disgnosis and treatment of what were thought to be female 'hysteric' disorders. this book sounds chilling but worth it and i will definitely look for it!

    1. That sounds fascinating! Another one to add to my list.

  16. Priya ~ thanks, this was an unusual combination of mystery and disturbing historical fiction, let me know if you end up reading it, I'd like to know what you think.

    I haven't read the Elaine Showalter book you mentioned, but I've looked it up on Goodreads and it sounds interesting and very moving. Thanks for the recommendation.


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