“So many things had a way of looking finer, when they were not so close.” is to me the light-motive of this novel. An estimated 30000 women were concealed, incarcerated and forced to labour in so-called Magdalene laundries run by the Catholic church with the tacit agreement of the Irish state. The last Magdalene house was closed down in 1996. The unanswered questions, the unseen lives of thousands of women and their children inspired the novel.
A work of historical fiction, it nevertheless seemed very realistic to me. The Irish way of speaking definitely helped me get into the atmosphere of the pre-Christmas period of 1985 in an Irish town. I looked at those laundries through the eyes of a father of five daughters, a coal and timber merchant, the main character of this book by the name of Bill Furlong. There is a very clear turning point in the otherwise steady life of this man when he asked himself the eternal question: “As they carried on along and met more people Furlong did and did not know, he found himself asking was there any point in being alive without helping one another? Was it possible to carry on along through all the years, the decades, through an entire life, without once being brave enough to go against what was there and yet call yourself a Christian, and face yourself in the mirror?” His rescue of a young woman from the Magdalene laundry triggered an insight into his own birth story. His mother and him could have had the same faith as these thousands of women if there would not have been for the big heart of their patron, who took care of them. And these are not small things at all when you think about it.
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