This book was so hard to find on amazon (cause I didn't want to go all the way to the bookshelf to get the title), but in the end, still had to. And then I found out it's not Magdalene, which is the conventional way of spelling, but Magaden =.=
This isn't the usual type of book I read, but it's quite interesting. It's basically about an unmarried mom in the life of a Magadalene shelter, which is a shelter for unmarried mothers, but treats them like slaves in the washing room.
What's interesting about this book are the characters. The protagonist is really predictable, but her family and friend's aren't. Well, one brother is, but the rest are different. The most unpredictable character would be the mother, because her actions were very unexpected. It actually borders on the edge of unbelievable, because the personality is a complete opposite. But I suppose that when you take time and the society into context, her actions make sense.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the priest. At first, he came across as a whiny character, the typical hypocritical priest. While this book does criticise nuns (especially in the Magdalene house) and priests (in Dublin), the author's hometown priest is surprisingly .... compasionate. He actually refused to marry the guy who ditched the girl (because the other lady is richer). I was shocked; but since this was done quite naturally, it was believable.
The nice thing about this book is that it has a mix of characters, no one order (or religion) is seen as wholly good or wholly bad. And that, I think, makes the difference in a novel. The only "fault" I find with the book (if it can be called a fault) is that the Esther (the protagonist) didn't get together with Jim at the end (Jim's some nice guy). There were hints, but nothing. Still, it's not a big issue, since it doesn't affect the main theme at all. Still, I wish that one lose end gets tied up, it reminds me of Studio Ghibli fims, where I always wait for a sequel (that never comes) because the main characters never get together (like Spirited away, Howl's Moving Castle - in which we never find out what happens between Sophie, Prince Justin and Howl, etc)
Ah, I rambled and digressed so much I completely forgot to paste the Amazon link. So, here it is: http://www.amazon.com/Magdalen-Marita-Conlon-McKenna/dp/081257768X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1288781631&sr=1-1