The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman

homeforunwantedgirlsI just finished reading The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman for my book club and it was a real page-turner. It’s a fictitious novel based on actual events that occurred in the early 1950’s in Quebec. At the time, many babies born out of wedlock were handed over to orphanages run by Catholic nuns. The province’s Premier of the time, Duplessis signed an order-in-council to turn orphanages into hospitals, thus allowing them to collect federal subsidies. As a result, many of the children in the orphanages were told that they were now mentally deficient, often kept drugged, and made to provide labour in support of the institutions. The children were not schooled, nor were they made available for adoption.

This story follows a 15 year old who finds herself pregnant as well as the story of the child she gives up to one of these orphanages turned hospitals. Mother and daughter never lose hope of reuniting while facing many challenges in their respective lives.

The novel was very well written and I believe it depicted the issues surrounding the times accurately. While it was sometimes difficult to read, it was also eye-opening and engaging. One of the few novels where I’ve shed tears while reading. I highly recommend it. (Submitted by Seline)

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The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

dressmaker

To say that Myrtle (“Tilly”) Dunnage had a traumatic childhood would be an understatement. At the age of ten, Tilly is accused of a serious crime and as a result – taken away from her single mother and evicted from the village of Dungatar, the only world she has ever known.

Twenty years later, to everyone’s astonishment, Tilly Dunnage re-enters the lives of Dungatar villagers. On her return, Tilly finds her mother, Molly, to be half mad from all those years of sorrow, loneliness, and poverty; the rest of the village and its residents remain almost unchanged except for the fact that everyone grew up or aged. There is much resentment, hate, and fear directed toward Tilly and her mother. However, Tilly is not a Cinderella type of a girl that would cry away in an attic waiting for some magical intervention; she is quite a character and that combined with her acquired skills in clothing design and sewing – make her a revolutionary ready to ignite some change. Armed with a Singer sewing machine, Tilly transforms people and the world around her. Myrtle Dunnage instigates a fashion revolution in Dungatar which is closely accompanied by revenge directed at those who did her wrong.

Rosalie Ham did a terrific job depicting a little village and its residents, as well as the major background– Australia in 1950s.

Supplement the book with the movie starring Kate Winslet as Tilly Dunnage. Costumes and actors’ play are definitely worth watching (Submitted by Mariya).

 

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