Monday, 4 August 2014

Philomena by Martin Sixsmith

* I read this book without having seen the film *

I loved the beginning of this book with the descriptions of Philomena in the convent with her new baby, Anthony.  It was so Irish, it was moving and it was heartbreaking.  From the moment Anthony left, I longed for them to be reunited.  

Having finished the book, I find the description a little deceiving.  Philomena isn't the tale of the search of a mother for the son she was forced to give away, and once the adoption has actually taken place it isn't even the story of Philomena.  I would have loved to have known more about Philomena's own quest and her life after Anthony was taken from her.  However, Philomena does not actually feature again until the very end of the book.  I guess the original title to the book, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee: A Mother, Her Son and a Fifty Year Search is slightly more accurate, but not totally.

I was constantly waiting and expecting "the search" to begin.  Anthony (who subsequently becomes Mike) visits Ireland twice, but I cannot really describe what he does there as searching for his mother.  Yes, within the book he talks about finding his mother, and it is clear that he wants to, but his actions are not what I would call "a lifelong search for his mother".

As this is what I had been expecting from the book, I did begin to find the seemingly endless life story of Anthony/Mike a little repetitive and tedious after a while. The book is heavily based on his life as a gay man and his career, leading to a focus on a homosexual lifestyle and American politics. Whilst it was interesting, it isn't what I had entirely expected, and I just wanted that little bit extra from it.

That said, I must emphasize that I really did enjoy the book as a whole.  It sounds as though I did not as I seem to have so many niggles but I really did.

The major flaw with this particular version of the book (and this is not the author's fault at all) and one that my mum was extremely unhappy about, is that of the photographs that feature in the middle of the book.  Some of these photos ruin the ending to the book, and for my mum, who didn't know the outcome, it ruined the book.  I had a heads up so didn't look at the photographs until after I had finished the book, but had I not known, I too would have been angered to discover the ending only part way through the book.  So if you're reading this version of the book, and you haven't seen the film, beware.....

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