Saturday, 16 November 2013

Philomena - Martin Sixsmith

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.

Published by: First published by Macmillan in 2010 in Paperback  under the title 'The Lost Child of Philomena Lee'  re-released as 'Philmena' in 2013 to tie in with the film of the same name by Pan Books - Non Fiction.
Pages: 452  - Kindle Edition 
ISBN: 978-1-4472-4533-9


As I don't make it to the cinema very often these days I decided I would read the book to the film and wait for it to come out on DVD in order to see it.  On discussing the film with colleagues who have seen it I discovered the fundamental difference between the book and the film. Here I was thinking that I would be reading the story of Philamena Lee and her search for her lost son only to find that was not the case.  The book is a compelling read and ties in with the film brilliantly.   The differences being that the book is all about the life of Michael Anthony Hess aka Anthony Lee the lost son of Philamena Lee and the film concentrates on the story of Phiomena's search for her son .  Adopted by Doc & Marge Hess as a three year old child a long with another child Mary they moved to America. They were always told that their mothers had given them up for adoption at birth and therefore both children had a sense of abandonment. The book tells the life of Michael from the moment he is born right up until his death in 1995. Unbeknownst to each other both mother and son had searched for each other over the years but to no avail until a chance meeting with Martin Sixsmith who took up the human interest story on behalf of Philomena and her family to try and find her son.  The book concentrates on the life of Michael Hess as told by his partner of 15 years, his family and close friends and the detailed diaries of his adoptive mother Marge Hess. I would definitely recommend this as a good read but would also recommend seeing the film in order to get a balanced view of both sides of the story.  Word of warning whether you see the film or read the book or as I would recommend both you will need a large box of tissues.  Thankfully the existence of the unmarried mothers homes and the involvement of the convents and the illegal trading of children has now ceased.  The sad side of this is there will be women out there who still carry the secret of an illegitimate child born in one of these places and forced to give them up for adoption. 

1 comment:

  1. It sounds a real weepy. The sad thing is though, it's true, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. It sounds as though reading the book and seeing the film would be a good idea as each has its own merits.


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