Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Whipping Boy, by Deborah Henry

The setting is Ireland in the late 1950's, and Marian, a Catholic, is in love with Ben, a Jew.  She finds herself pregnant out of wedlock, and decides to go away to have her child at a Mothers' home, then give him up for adoption.  Over ten years later, Marian and Ben are married with a daughter, but Marian cannot forget her first child.  Consumed with guilt, Marian locates her son, but getting the picture perfect family is not as easy as she anticipates.

This was a difficult novel for me to read.  I think the story itself is important and has the potential to be quite powerful.  Several generations of women found themselves in Marian's situation, and were never allowed to talk about it or heal from it, so I think this story will touch many.  I am appalled at the treatment both Marian and her son receive at the various institutions in which they spend time, but I have no doubt that this book paints an accurate picture of the horrors in such places.

I struggled with the book because it seemed so reserved.  The story moves quickly at first, and is a little too cerebral for me.  I would have liked to have seen the book be more emotional, so as to hook the reader from the very beginning.  The story certainly has the potential to do that, but the writing kept me at arm's length.  I actually disliked Marian as a character; I wanted to empathize with her, but just could not.  She comes across rather hysterical in the book, and I found myself resenting the way she shut out Ben and their daughter.  I also felt she took very little responsibility for the part she played in the way her own life turned out.  

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in return for an honest review.  You can see the rest of the tour here.

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