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THE IRISH MAGDALEN by John Broderick

THE IRISH MAGDALEN

By John Broderick

ISBN: 7145-2906-0
Publisher: Marion Boyars

This last novel by the late Irish writer Broderick is the second (after The Flood, 1987) in an anticipated trilogy set in the fictionalized Irish town of Bridgeford, through which the author affectionately recalls the Ireland of his childhood. In 1934, Bridgeford, on the banks of the Shannon, is a small town firmly under the spiritual and temporal rule of the Catholic Church in the person of the redoubtable Canon Sharkey. A saint to many but a questionable character to his pious curate, Canon Sharkey has devised an illicit sweepstake to fund the rebuilding of the old church. The sweepstake, which relies heavily on contributions from wealthy Americans, is run by a select group of parishioners. But when his old housekeeper dies, and the Canon employs as his new housekeeper young Maureen--who not only is regarded as being too young to work in a priest's house but is also the half-sister of Polly Cox, a notorious local whore--the gossip, always a local cottage industry, flourishes. Even the Canon's American patrons learn of his cook's sordid family connection. But the Canon, who enjoys good food and is unwilling to dismiss Maureen--an excellent cook--is a resourceful man who knows his parishioners. With the connivance of a few of the townspeople, the wily Canon is able to transform Polly, the sinner, into the Irish Magdalen, a respectable married woman and devout churchgoer. The sweepstake is saved and Maureen can stay, though the Canon has to make a tactical concession to his curate. At times a little sentimental and filled with stock Irish characters, but nonetheless a loving portrait of a past treasured for its humor and the richness of its everyday life. An old-fashioned but pleasing read.