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Philomena: The true story of a mother and the son she had to give away (film tie-in edition) [Unabridged] [Paperback]

Martin Sixsmith
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,006 customer reviews)
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Book Description

10 Oct 2013

When she fell pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952, Philomena Lee was sent to the convent at Roscrea in Co. Tipperary to be looked after as a fallen woman. She cared for her baby for three years until the Church took him from her and sold him, like countless others, to America for adoption. Coerced into signing a document promising never to attempt to see her child again, she nonetheless spent the next fifty years secretly searching for him, unaware that he was searching for her from across the Atlantic.

Philomena's son, renamed Michael Hess, grew up to be a top Washington lawyer and a leading Republican official in the Reagan and Bush administrations. But he was a gay man in a homophobic party where he had to conceal not only his sexuality but, eventually, the fact that he had AIDs. With little time left, he returned to Ireland and the convent where he was born: his desperate quest to find his mother before he died left a legacy that was to unfold with unexpected consequences for all involved.

Philomena is the tale of a mother and a son whose lives were scarred by the forces of hypocrisy on both sides of the Atlantic and of the secrets they were forced to keep. With a foreword by Judi Dench, Martin Sixsmith's book is a

compelling and deeply moving narrative of human love and loss, both heartbreaking yet ultimately redemptive.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; 1 edition (10 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1447245229
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447245223
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 13 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,006 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Martin Sixsmith was born in Cheshire and educated at Oxford, Harvard and the Sorbonne. From 1980 to 1997 he worked for the BBC as the Corporation’s correspondent in Moscow, Washington, Brussels and Warsaw. From 1997 to 2002 he worked for the Government as Director of Communications and Press Secretary first to Harriet Harman, then to Alistair Darling and finally to Stephen Byers. He is now a writer, presenter and journalist. He is the author of Philomena, as well as the novels Spin and I Heard Lenin Laugh, and the non-fiction books Moscow Coup: The Death of the Soviet System and The Litvinenko File: The True Story of a Death Foretold. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down 23 Mar 2014
By Di
I found this book a compelling read. From the moment I picked it up, I found it hard to put down. I liked the style of writing and the sensitive portrayal of the characters meant it was easy to be drawn in. It wasn't Philomena's story, however, it was her son's, but his struggles and the prejudices he faced throughout his life provided a harrowing tale made all the more poignant by the fact it was a true story. I challenge any reader not to empathise with Philomena and the love she had for her son, living in constant dread that he would be taken from her. The manner of his removal and what could possibly have gone through the mind of such a young child at that time still brings a lump to my throat and causes me to hold my children that little bit tighter.

I don't want to say much more and spoil people's reading but Anthony/Michael's story is a real education in prejudice and the struggles of one man who couldn't conform in an unforgiving society. I was appalled at the narrow minded and medieval attitudes of the Catholic Church, American society and political institutions. I think there was an element of bias from the author towards the Church, Michael's adoptive father and some others but that is for people to decide themselves.

This is an excellent book and I recommend it to all.
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85 of 91 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Misleading! 8 Jan 2014
If you think you are going to read Philomena's story - You are wrong. This is Michael Hess ( Antony) story. It centres on his journey through life feeling rejected and alone. He embarks on a career in Law which takes him to the Whitehouse, rubbing shoulders with the President, and partying in Gay Bars, progressing to a life that includes a sordid and depraved side, often pushing aside those that come to love him and selling out fellow friends and associates that are homesexual to further his career, and save himself from public humiliation.You have every sympathy for his situation, and his lost identity, but he did have a good family, a mum who loved him, and a sister that shared his past and present life.His attempts to find his real Mum were rather half hearted in my opinion, and he didn't really appreciate the love and education that his adoptive family provided.
It is an emotive subject, and I really wanted to read Philomena's story and how it affected her. Unfortunately this book does not cover her story at all. Maybe I will have to watch the film, but I do feel the title of the book is misleading.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars recommended 21 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book is much more comprehensive than the film. Philomena, touching story and politically interesting too, a good read and well written.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good story, well told 21 Feb 2014
By helen g
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read this before I saw the film, and was glad that I had- the book contains far more depth.
Its a heart breaking story well told and with unexpected twists. Do read you won't regret it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good read 11 Jan 2014
By Pal
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Much more detail about Michael Hess and his sister Mary , less focus on Philomena the Abbey comes out even worse than the film. Have just read Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline - fictional /fact about transporting homeless children from the streets of Manhattan to the mid west US to work on farms and as house slaves
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the film but the book is even better. 6 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book gives so much more information and insight into the life of Anthony Lee. The sad toll that his perceived rejection had upon Anthony's life is sensitively explored and one is left feeling so sad that he never knew of his mother's continued longing and the quest to find him.
The book is also a secondary source of historical information about the prejudice and at best ambivalence experienced by the gay community in America particularly with the advent of HIV and AIDS.
Last but not least is the important story that needed to be told of the Church's role in exploiting young women and their babies as recently as the 1960s and 70s.
Thank you to Martin Sixsmith and to Philomena for giving us this truly heart wrenching book.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A huge disappointment 22 Jan 2014
By daveh
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Anyone buying this book expecting to read a account of a mother's search for her lost son, either on the basis of its title or after seeing the film, should prepare themselves to be hugely disappointed and frustrated. With the exception of a few pages at the end it does not tell the story of Philomena Lee's search for Anthony/Michael. The book is essentially a biography of Michael Hess but it is written almost in the style of a novel. The style is the other issue I have because it results in much of the content taking the form of surmised situations and conversations rather than providing a documentary narrative of Michael's life.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite as expected 16 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I saw the film first then bought the book on the strength of it.I was greatly moved by the film because it concentrated on Philomena's desperately sad quest to find her son over many years ,only to discover the highs and the lows of his life with the help of the journalist ,Martin Sixsmith.
The book , initially, told us about her pitiful plight as a young unmarried mother in Ireland ,making one feel fully involved emotionally with her suffering in Roscrea.
Unfortunately, when it moves on to Mike's life in America , after describing his difficult relationship with "Doc" and his feelings about being adopted it becomes bogged down in a huge chunk of the book detailing his adult life . Unless you are interested in the recent history of American politics and the Gay Rights movement then it becomes very slow and tedious,i found myself skipping over this part and I can't remember it featuring very much at all in the film.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Published 1 day ago by Mrs. Wendy Coleman
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very page turning.
Published 1 day ago by Rospar
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A1 thanks
Published 1 day ago by L. Matthews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
quite a boring book
Published 1 day ago by bill walker
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book with reservations
This was a true story and a book I could not put down - very sad although the story line tends to highlight Michael's sex life a lot which I did not expect - I would however still... Read more
Published 2 days ago by annneibow
3.0 out of 5 stars I preferred the film
I preferred the film
Published 2 days ago by linda bennett
5.0 out of 5 stars Have a box of tissues handy when you read this ...
Have a box of tissues handy when you read this book, I needed another box when I tried to tell my husband about the book.
Published 2 days ago by Joan G
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile reading...
I saw the movie not long ago and while I would not normally follow it up so soon with the book, it focuses on the story of the son and therefore more is of a companion piece to the... Read more
Published 2 days ago by Kym Hamer
5.0 out of 5 stars Such a good read and I had no idea that such a ...
Such a good read and I had no idea that such a dreadful thing could happened in my lifetime. I have yet to see the film, which I hope goes someway to telling this story for all... Read more
Published 2 days ago by Lins Loo
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
For anyone who likes a true story I call recommend this book, get the hankies ready!
Published 3 days ago by susan jordan
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