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Lena (U.K.)

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Childhood Interrupted: Growing up under the cruel regime of the Sisters of Mercy
Childhood Interrupted: Growing up under the cruel regime of the Sisters of Mercy
by Kathleen O'Malley
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Read, 14 Mar. 2008
This is an engrossing book. It is written in a simple and unaffected style, but the story it tells is so powerful and moving that the reader is gripped from the beginning.

Its honesty is a big part of its attraction. She doesn't flinch from describing her own mixed emotions; for example, her desire to please the nuns in order to gain some approval or affection or to stay out of trouble. She even tells how, in later life, she brought her young son back to show him to the nuns who had treated her so cruelly; she wanted to say to them, "Look, I've made a life for myself, I'm a normal person, I'm not bad."

Although I grew up in Ireland at the same time as Kathleen O'Malley, and had a very different childhood, I remember the Ireland she describes extremely well. It was a repressive and dreary place, with every aspect of life dominated by the Catholic Church, and although I was unaware of what was happening in places like the Industrial Schools, I was not surprised when we found out later. The nuns who ran my smart, fee-paying school would not have dared to abuse us (although they hit us on the hands with wooden rulers - and that was OK with our parents) but their hypocrisy, snobbery and lack of human decency was only too evident.

Kathleen may have inherited her strong spirit from her wonderful mother. I finished the book full of admiration for the way in which she went on to live life fully and fruitfully.

It also made me want to remind people how dangerous religion can be and how we must try to maintain a society where there are checks and balances which prevent one institution from gaining such power.

The Ireland of that time had many kind and decent people. My own parents were gentle and good people, but they were so respectful, and in awe, of the church that I think that, even if they had been told of what was being done to children like Kathleen and her sister, they would have refused to believe it and turned away. How sad that is.

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