Showing posts with label 1950s. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1950s. Show all posts

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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Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Book Review

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Book ReviewThe book The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is the story of an elderly movie star named Evelyn Hugo who has decided to allow an author to write the story of her life. A tell all, no holds barred. For reasons known only to herself, Hugo picks an relatively unknown, inexperienced young magazine reporter named Monique Grant. In doing so, she astounds both the publishing house and the young woman.

Monique is at a low point in her life. She is newly divorced and frustrated with her unsuccessful career so she accepts this writing job without knowing why she has been chosen. She hopes that she will find success through the sought after story of a reclusive actress.

Immediately after announcing that she wants to have this book written and picking Monique, Hugo puts her to work and the two spend long days in her New York apartment discussing her life story. Hugo arrived in Los Angeles in the 1950s and had a very successful acting career until she finally left acting in the 1980s. As is obvious from the cover, she has seven husbands during that time frame. She has been ruthless in her choices and efforts to get what she wants and along the way found a few great friends and one forbidden love. Of course, it turns out that there is a connection between Monique and Evelyn.

This story is a trip through the Hollywood of times gone by, in both the good and the bad aspects, and it is also a voyage of discovery in which both women find out what it costs to face the truth. It deals with sexuality including LGBTQ, with race and with strong women in the 1940s and 1950s and in the current day.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Book Review by Taylor Jenkins ReidIs The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo recommended by me? Yes, I enjoyed the book. It was an easy read but be warned that Grant is a not-very-nice woman who will go to any means to get what she wants and that the book includes many of the vices we associate with Hollywood. If you are interested in the history of Hollywood, I believe you will enjoy this story as I did.

The Historical Novel Society says, "Evelyn, her husbands, and others may be composites, but the story is fresh, and the end reveal is worth the wait." I agree.

I spent the entirety of the book wondering if it was linked in any way to the actress Elizabeth Taylor and her seven husbands and eight marriages and a bit of research cleared up the mystery. I do wish there had been a tagline like "based on the lives of real Hollywood actresses."

Anyway, when interviewed by Pop Sugar, author Taylor Jenkins Reid said she was inspired by true stories like those found in Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversation and Scandals of Classic Hollywood. Ava Gardner had herself hired a ghost writer to write her story and shared so many secrets with the writer that the book was eventually cancelled and not published until both Gardner and the writer had passed away. Jenkins Reid drew on many stories from real life and yes, that included the lives of Elizabeth Taylor and Rita Hayworth.

In the Pop Sugar story, Jenkins Reid said that she hopes we learn from this story and that "Hugo can teach us a lot about how to get what we want out of this world." Jenkin Reid goes on to say that she believes "It is time for women to get ours (but that) we've got to go out there and take it. (That) it is going to be uncomfortable, but that she thinks the rewards will be there for us. We need to find the confidence in ourselves to say, Pay me what I'm worth. Promote me when I deserve it. Don't take advantage of me. Don't underestimate me."

Have you read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo? Will you be adding it to your reading list? Are you interested in the history of Hollywood or could you care less?

See you
at the library!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo on Amazon.
The best Elizabeth Taylor movies.







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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Secret Child Book Review

Secret Child Book Review
Secret Child (2015) is a true story from a time when individuals of different religious backgrounds could fall in love but not easily marry and where children born out of wedlock were considered unwanted and considered 'the unfortunates.'  Most women who found themselves pregnant and unmarried in 1950s Dublin, Ireland were unable to keep their children.

Secret Child tells the story of Cathleen, a woman who found a forbidden love and lost it because of the divide between the Protestant and Catholic religions and then found herself pregnant. She was one of the fortunate few to stumble across Regina Coeli, which may have been the only home for unwed mothers in Dublin at that time.

The author does not know how his mother came to find this facility but it was definitely because of the Regina Coeli that his mother, Cathleen, managed to keep her son and hide him away from her family and the rest of the world until he was eight years old. This accomplishment of course was only done with great hardship when she worked long hours and left her young son in the care of a reclusive caregiver at the facility.

Some may have called these children the unfortunates but the children did not see themselves in that light and Gordon, according to Mail Online, considered the hostel paradise. It was, after all, his childhood home where he lived until the age of 8 when his mother eventually reunites with and marries her original love. As a family, they move to London, England and this move perhaps improves their life slightly but also brings with it a host of other challenges, which includes leaving Gordon's Regina Coeli family behind.

This book gives a glimpse into life in the 1950s in Dublin and the early 1960s in London. It is told from the point of view of the child, Gordon Lewis, and written with the assistance of ghostwriter Andrew Crofts. In the book, Gordon returns to Ireland as an adult to uncover the story of his childhood home, which was a happy place in his eyes, and to learn the story of his mother's prior life, which was unknown to him. His cousin asks why he wants to dig up that old history and advises him to let it be. For Gordon, however, it was important to put the story together and understand both his family background and his mother's story.

I recommend Secret Child for those wanting an interesting look into those times in Ireland and a serious subject matter though the book is not a difficult book to read.  Though this story took place in Ireland, we all know that such religious divides existed elsewhere and that unwed mothers faced similar situations in many different parts of the world.

If you are interested, you can read more about the book or order your copy of Secret Child from Amazon by clicking right here.

IMDB says this story is being created as a short film called The Bridge by the author and due for release in 2018.

See you
at the bookstore!

More Ireland:

Order your copy of Secret Child on Amazon.
Visit 1980s Ireland via my My Fifty Dead Men Walking movie review.
Visit Ireland in 1916 my Michael Collins movie review.
















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Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Remains of the Day (1990) Book Review

The Remains of the Day is set in the 1950s and deals with the changing world of a man who had totally dedicated himself to being the best English butler he can be. Yes, picture that upright, serious, effective, totally dedicated, courteous, loyal gentlemen butler that we are used to seeing in period drama movies. The mini-series Downton Abbey hinted at the changing world for people who worked in service but never quite made it to the time when a butler would no longer be needed at all, which is what is happening in this book.

With the permission of his new American employer, butler Stevens sets out on a road trip to meet with a former female colleague whom we believe he loved although he may not know that fact. The road trip gives Stevens (and us) plenty of time to reflect back on his choices over the years and to ponder whether or not he made the right ones. Author Kazuo Ishiguro meant the book to be a metaphor, representing most of us who labour through life in one way or another and do not really know what the outcome of our efforts will be.

Would I Recommend This Book?


A few members of my book club really enjoyed reading The Remains of the Day. However, it was not a page turner and I was slow to warm up to it but in the end I did enjoy it. It was interesting and thought provoking and I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys period drama movies and historical fiction but not because of how those books flow but because of their subject matter.

By way of further recommendation, you should know that Remains of the Day won the Man Booker Prize in 1989 and that it is a very highly regarded post-war British story that sits at number 146 on Stanford University’s list of the best twentieth-century English novels.

Author Kazuo Ishiguro says that ''What he is interested in is not the actual fact that his characters have done things they later regret...but how they come to terms with that fact.”

I came away thinking that one should live for today and not let life pass you by. Stevens gave up too much in his pursuit of excellence and in the end wound up with nothing.

I will be watching the 1993 movie version of The Remains of the Day, which was more familiar to me than the book before it was added to our book club reading list. The movie stars Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson and was nominated for eight Academy Awards and sounds like a worthy follow up to this novel.

How about you? Will you be reading or watching The Remains of the Day? Or perhaps you have already done so? If you have not yet read the book and are interested, you can find your copy on Amazon by clicking right here.


Happy reading!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Links:

Order your copy of The Remains of the Day from Amazon.




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