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on 15 July 2015
What can I say?
I finished reading this book in the early hours of this morning and I am so angry on many different levels. When I began reading, I felt a connection with Anthony as he was born just a few months before myself. Like him, I was born to an Irish Catholic mother but, for the most part, that was where the similarities ended.
My anger began when I read of the dreadful treatment the young girls received at the hands of the avaricious nuns and the higher authorities within the church. As a still Mass attending Catholic I found the whole story of these poor girls horrendous and I asked Irish friends of mine how on earth there was a single Catholic left in Ireland when the truth came out about the virtual slavery inflicted on these poor women. Obviously, I was lucky in that when I was educated by nuns, they were human and kind and supportive.
My anger increased when, like other reviewers, I discovered that Philomena disappeared from the text and we learnt about the life Michael had in the USA. Why call the book 'Philomena' when it should have been called Anthony/Michael?
I believe Martin Sixsmith depicted Michael as a deeply unpleasant character who did have issues with his identity, but became a destructive personality-destroying relationships by indulging in selfish, self-destructive actions on one hand, while climbing the political tree, ignoring his own personal ideals on the other.
The very fact that we, the readers, do not meet Philomena again until the Epilogue also annoyed me. His last contacts were her appeared like an afterthought and did not contain the detail I expected. By the end of the book I did not feel that I knew her, even as a fictional character, let alone a living, breathing mother.
When I sat down to write this review, I read Brennagh's review and my faith was restored in the life of Michael, if not in Sixsmith's 'fictionalised' version of Michael. I found this review more insightful than the whole book! Yes, Brennagh knew and worked for Michael, but Sixsmith seems to have had his own agenda, for whatever reason, and created a character assassination of Michael.
Have I watched the film?
No.
Will I?
I very much doubt it!
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on 27 February 2015
In 2009 a book was published written by Martin Sixsmith and called The Lost Child of Philomena. The original title should have been kept. While the book begins with Philomena and ends with her search for her lost son. The balance of the book is very much for the story of the son. Maybe Martin Sixsmith’s background as a foreign correspondent of the BBC is responsible for that bias in the book

However, the story is very moving. The dreadful fate of unmarried mothers in Ireland is well documented, and once again there is no mention of any action taken towards the fathers of these ‘bastard’ babies. What is crucial in this book, though, is the effects of separation on the child. The fact that there could be long term, and possibly damaging consequences is well spelt out. It makes us think before we applaud celebrities who may go to a so called third world country and adopt a child. The book demonstrates how a church can have a very strong hold on a community. Although the focus here is on the Catholic Church in Ireland, the church’s relations with the people reminds us about what is happening in many other religions.

A lot of detail is given about Michael ( Anthony)’s life in the United States. The focus on AIDS is another terrifying aspect of the fate of the gay community.

Advertising of the book has included phrases such as ‘the poignant true story of a mother…’. It is difficult for the reader to ascertain if all the facts are true, as there has been many adverse reactions to martin Sixsmith’s use of information he gathered for the book from many who knew Michael (Anthony).

However, this is a very important book on many historical and current aspects of life.
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on 8 February 2014
I haven't seen the film but was expecting this book to be mainly about Philomena Lee, not her son. Had I carried out a bit more research, I would have discovered that this is a new edition of 'The Lost Son of Philomena Lee', and I would have known what to expect. I found I couldn't warm to Michael (or Anthony),I found him self-centred and self-pitying. I appreciate that it was difficult growing up as a gay man in the 60s, and he didn't have sympathetic parents to turn to (although I'm sure his adoptive mother would have understood and helped), but I soon got tired of his self-pity and self-destruction. On a more positive note, I now know much more about American politics and Irish Catholicism, and the way young unmarried mothers were treated in the 50s and 60s. The practise of allowing girls to look after their babies for three years, and form a strong bond, only to have to sign away any rights to future contact was simply appalling and I was left thinking about all the other children and mothers who were in the same situation, spending the rest of their lives wondering about how it could have been. My other gripe about the book is that I didn't like the way it was written - Martin Sixsmith writes in a rather childlike way, and a lot of the time I felt like I was reading a novel not a biography, and a badly composed novel as well. I'd like to read Philomena's story, but not written by Sixsmith.
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on 22 January 2014
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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on 11 January 2014
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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on 17 May 2015
Huge disappointment. This book started off so well. Reading about the babies and the nunnery was sad but interesting and for the first 15% or so I was enjoying the book. As others have said the title is very misleading as the book isn't a search by philomena at all. It's a tedious account of an unpleasant sounding man, his promiscuous homosexual activities and politics. I lasted until about half way through then skipped to the end. I can see why the title is so misleading as I would never have bought it it if I'd known the subject matter. Waste of money
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on 23 September 2014
This is not a book about Philomena Lee. It is not about the detective story detailing Philomena's and Martin Sixmith's attempt to find her son (Anthony/Michael) whom she was forced to give up. 10% is about the scandal of Irish babies being sold to American families by the catholic church. The book me struck me as a rather voyeuristic discourse by Sixsmith on the tragic life of Michael and his coming to terms with being gay and his descent into sadomasochistic self destruction. At times I felt Sixsmith was writing from the viewpont of a titillated
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on 21 February 2014
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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on 16 February 2014
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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on 26 June 2014
This is a well written book that tells the true story of what happened to one of thousands of unmarried young women in Ireland who had children and went to the Nuns for refuge and support. The worst thing about the book is that it just one case and thousands more have suffered in this way. While it is bad enough that the practice of taking children from these young women and "selling " them to rich Americans even took place, we might have hoped that we were now a little more enlightened and that those who were involved at the time would now be horrified by what they had done... it is astonishing then, that many years later, the church still tried to hide what they had done and prevented this woman from even visiting her sons grave. Philomena's son had a short life, attained a great deal professionally and had a long term relationship but he never knew his mother had searched for him for years. The story is funny in places, terribly sad in others and told in a fairly matter of fact way that lays bare the awful truth of the situation.
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