The Magdelen Girls

V.S. Alexander


The cover art questions ‘Who will save them?’ the answer, unfortunately is nobody. From the 18th to the late 20th century ‘fallen’ women, prostitutes, and young women whose only crime was to appear too attractive were imprisoned in institutions and labeled ‘Magdalenes,’  where they worked without compensation at laundries under the supervision of the Catholic Church. Most of these inmates of these institutions were unwed mothers or rebellious daughters. The fathers of their children were, of course, never punished and their babies were given up for adoption.

Although the laundries were in several countries, it is in Ireland that this book is set. Young Teagan is guilty of nothing more than being an attractive teen who flirts with a handsome young priest. The priest confesses his attraction to his superior and the result is the incarceration of the young girl in a Magdalen laundry. For life.

Teagan meets the strict Sister Anne, superior of the laundry. She appears to be struggling with demons of her own. Teagan makes friend with rebellious Nora and pious Lea, as she struggles to maintain her sanity and identity against the weight of constant oppression.

I had my own struggles with this book. This is an important story that needs to be told, but it is poorly served by this melodrama. The twisted Sister Anne is a cliche villain, and Teagan is too insipid to care about. The ending is forced and unbelievable and Sister Anne’s backstory is just as unbelievable. Someday someone will write a powerful novel about the Magdalen laundries. Until then, we’ll just have to wait.


ARC from Netgalley


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