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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, in her new book, The Walk, Emma Marns takes readers to rural Ireland in 1979, where thousands of women had their babies forcibly removed and given up for adoption.
In her new book, The Walk, former journalist Emma Marns takes readers to 1979 and Ireland’s mother-and-baby home scandal, where unmarried and pregnant young women were forced to give up their children for adoption. It is impossible not to be touched by the story of protagonists, Ailbe and Maire, who have their reprehensible reality laid bare with the introduction of Bessborough, a real facility in Cork run by Catholic nuns. The cadence and poignancy of this fictional storyline are taken to a whole new level of emotion when you remember this has been a life-long and harrowing reality for thousands of women.
Pregnant out of wedlock, and outcast from society, Ailbe and Maire are taken from their rural village in Ireland, never to return.
Though they believe they will at least have each other, the girls are devastated when Ailbe is dumped at the gates of Bessborough, while Maire is forced to continue on to Dublin, to be cared for by the relatives of her married lover.
This is an enduring tale of family, love, friendship, secrecy, self-sacrifice, and the extraordinary endurance of women in the most appalling of circumstances.
The Walk tells the story of two teenagers, both unmarried and soon-to-be mothers, who flee their home village in rural Ireland, where pregnancy outside of wedlock is a crime worse than murder. Ailbe is sent to Bessborough in Cork, a facility run by nuns of the Catholic church who treat the ‘inmates’ with contempt and scorn and where medical treatment is largely denied. In contrast, Maire is sent to live with the spinster aunt of her married lover and awaits the adoption of her child into the family as their own, before embarking on a new life in London as a nurse.
The idea for this novel stemmed from a 2019 BBC article called ‘The girls of Bessborough’, which I read with interest and sadness one sleepless night. The article detailed the experiences of several women, now in their 50s, 60s and 70s, who were sent to Bessborough when unmarried and pregnant and who had their babies removed from them for forced adoptions. Many of them still suffer with the trauma, not just of the loss of their children, but the inhumane treatment they experienced there. The investigations into Bessborough and the homes like it only just concluded in 2021/22.
Emma Marns has a BA Hons in English Literature from the University of East Anglia, a PGDip in Sports Journalism from St Marys University Twickenham, and an M.Phil. in Irish Writing from Trinity College Dublin.
She worked as a journalist for some years, mostly in the world of sport for Sky Sports News and The Sun Sport, as well as contributing to other publications.
In 2014 at age 23, she converted to Catholicism from an entirely non-religious background. After having my daughter in August 2022, she became even more passionate about telling the stories of the women who suffered as a result of the mother-and-baby home scandal in Ireland, who were torn away from their children because society dictated that they could not care for a child out of wedlock.
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Published on 25th July 2023, The Walk (ISBN: 978-1-80378-140-2) is available in paperback and Kindle format.
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