THE RASHERHOUSE by Paul A. Roberts


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 A well-intentioned but heavy-handed first novel about an Irish women's prison, where inhumane conditions turn a teenage mother from a petty thief into a heroine addict. Mags is only 17 when she's taken out of society and away from her infant daughter Tracy to serve a six-month sentence for stealing baby clothes. Inside Rasherhouse, as the women's facility is known to the male inmates locked up on the floors above, Mags, who has to share a cell with Betty the addict and Rosie the dealer, quickly has her innocence stripped away. She learns where Rosie hides her goods, what her cellmates do to while away the long nights, and, most of all, how powerless she is. When she's found with some of Rosie's drugs after resisting a search, Mags is thrown into isolation for a few days, and upon returning to her cell is so depressed by her mistreatment that she shoots up with Betty. Addicted by the time of her release, she hooks up with another jailhouse junkie with whom she's fallen in love and tells him her terrible secret--that her stepfather is also the father of Tracy. Her soulmate, though, is too drugged to hear her. Together, the two spiral downward until he's become her pimp and she's back in prison for transporting a large quantity of heroin. The coup de grÉce in poor Mags's fall occurs when she can't even touch Tracy in the visiting room, rules forbidding contact between inmates and others. Heartbroken, Mags decides she has nothing left to live for. Graphic and bleak but burdened with clichÇs, Dubliner Roberts's debut is weighted further with an intermittent moralistic commentary supplied by the manuscript's ``discoverer,'' a justice official of the ``spare the rod, spoil the child'' school.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1997
ISBN: 1-898256-21-7
Page count: 178pp
Publisher: Dufour
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1997