Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Review: The Whipping Club
by Deborah Henry
T.S. Poetry Press
a copy of this book was provided by the publisher through TLC Book Tours
Deborah Henry's debut novel is a stunning page-turner. I immediately fell in love with this writer's voice and her fluid style. The Whipping Club is a story of shame and social stigma, and the cruel punishment meted out to unwed mothers and their children in 1950's Ireland.
Marian McKeever is in love. It is 1957, and she is a Catholic girl in love with a Jewish boy. On the night that she meets her lover's parents, Marian is keeping a secret that she longs to reveal. But Ben's mother doesn't accept her son's Catholic girlfriend, the night goes awry, and Marian never tells Ben that she is carrying his child. Instead she goes away to Castleboro Mother Baby Home and relinquishes her son--believing that he is to be adopted by an American family.
Ten years later, Marian and Ben are married; they have a daughter, Johanna, and a settled, happy life. True, Marian is distracted, sometimes distant. She has never told Ben about their son. A crisis occurs when a character known simply as Nurse appears on Marian's doorstep with unsettling news about the fate of Adrian Ellis, the son who was taken from Marian's arms ten years ago.
The Whipping Club is an absolutely gripping tale told by a gifted storyteller. I was holding my breath at times, feeling a sense of dread or dismay, fiercely involved with these characters. An abiding sense of familial love runs through this novel, and the characters are sympathetic and believable. There are villians here too--the orphanage and reform school are refuges for warped characters who wield their power to abuse, control and abase those in their charge. Adrian is a wholly believable boy--longing for love, drawn to troubled reenactments of his most shameful treatment. I feared for this somewhat Dickensian boy, rooting for his beating the odds. Marian and Ben are a couple bound by love but twisted by guilt and remorse, and the reader feels a deep sympathy for their pain. The Whipping Club was a highly satisfying read; I look forward to more from this author.
For more about Deborah Henry: http://www.deborahhenryauthor.com