Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Home for Unwanted Girls Book Review

Joanna Goodman's The Home for Unwanted Girls is a fictionalized account of a true story. Set in 1950s French Canada, it tells the tale of a young woman who is forced by her family to give up her daughter for adoption and in lesser part, the tale of the daughter in the Canadian system. It also shares the history of the times in Quebec including the divide between the French and the English.

Most of us are aware of the situation a girl of the age of 15 would have been in in 1950s society if she found herself pregnant. I believe, however, that most of us are unaware of what happened to the large number of the children who were given up for adoption in Quebec at that time but who were never actually adopted.

Those 'unwanted' children were placed in orphanages where they were misused as servants and abused by nuns and staff. Later, when those orphanages became psychiatric hospitals, the children were simply reclassified as mentally ill and assimilated into that population where they continued to be used as servants and abused but were also treated as mentally ill.

As someone who did not know of this story before she picked up the book, I found it simply unbelievable that this was allowed. They were children and while naive to the ways of normal living because of living in orphanages, they were not mentally ill.

How could a switch from orphanage to mental asylum even be allowed? Well, it turns out that it happened because patients in mental asylums received more funding than children in orphanages. The province of Quebec received $1.25 per orphan or $2.75 per psychiatric patient so orphanages became hospitals. Of course, it was only later that the physical, psychological and sexual abuse was discovered. The author, in her interview with the Toronto Star, says that restitution has been offered by the government to the victims but no formal apology has been made by the church.

The author also shares that this book was drawn from her own mother's life in the 1950s. That is, of a French-Canadian woman married to an English seed merchant. However, the author struggled with how to present the story until she read a French memoir written by a survivor that shared one woman's thoughts as she actually lived through the situation.

This book reveals a very sad time in Quebec history. It delves into the issues of language, class and religion. It is also a story of family and of romantic love. Yes, there is a lot of heartache but the book is well written and comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me if you enjoy historical fiction and want an eye opening look at a little known piece of Canadian history. Be warned that the subject matter it is disturbing and it did happen. However, I raced through The Home for Unwanted Girls needing to know what happened next. What the outcome would be was never far from my mind.

You can buy your copy from Amazon by clicking right here. If you do read this book, be sure to come back and let us know what you think.

See you at
the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy your copy of The Home for Unwanted Girls on Amazon.
Secret Child Book Review: 1950s Ireland.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Series Review: 1950s New York City.
The Remains of the Day Book Review: 1950s England.





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9 comments:

  1. This sounds like a well written book about a part of history that, even if we knew about it, we would hate to admit that a world of civilized people would allow to happen. My heart already goes out to those children. Money is frequently the reason behind evil, but no excuse for abusing children is acceptable. Of course, I will now have to read to book!

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  2. Brenda, you always find interesting books whose subject can lead us to social awareness of situations that we need to be aware of to prevent such things from ever happening again. Thank you for your excellent review.

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  3. This book sounds like one I'd really like to read. Thank you for the review. By the way, you'd be surprised at how much money (or lack of money) continues to impact whether or not children receive the services and correct care that they need. Not quite as bad as orphanages and asylums.... but still, it's often all about the money.

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  4. Brenda, this book sounds both fascinating and gut-wrenching. The horrors that happened to those poor orphans are both unimaginable and inexcusable.

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  5. Thanks for your visits and comments, ladies. If this book makes it to the top of your list, I hope you will enjoy it despite the unpleasant subject matter.

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  6. A great review. But I don't know if I could bear to read the book, especially since it's based on a true story. This kind of inhumanity cuts me to the core. Knowing it happened is bad enough without reading the details. Better that I try to keep anything similar from happening here today or to try to help current victims. This breaks my heart.

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    1. Yes preventing such tragedies and helping those who have been victims is a good use of your energy, Barb.

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  7. I started this book on the 6th of May when this review came out! I could not put it down. Such a sad story in the history of Quebec, the church and the poor girls who were abused, tortured and maltreated by what was supposed to be caring nuns. This really is a heartbreaking story of survival and at least a happy ending for Elodie!

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experience with the book, Olivia. It was indeed a heartbreaking story.

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