Earlier this year I saw the film, Philomena and I came away really angry about the treatment of young mothers and their children born out of wedlock by institutions, particulalrly the church, in Ireland in the 1950s. Reading the book on which the film is loosely based confirmed my anger. Both Philomena and her son tried to find each other but each time they visited Sean Ross Abbey theywere told by the nuns that they could not provide information about the other party. Philomena did not find any information about her son until after his death.
The film concentrates on the story from Philomena's viewpoint while the majority of the book, originally published as The Lost Son of Philomena Lee, looks at the story of her son after he was taken from Ireland, at the age of three, to live in America. Anthony, whose name was changed to Michael, had difficulty entirely accepting his new life and, although his political career led him to holding a high position within the Republican Party, he never felt that he belonged to his adoptive family or to his new country. Michael was gay and the book also looks at the position of homosexuals in the 1980s, particulalrly with the arrival of AIDS.
Martin Sixsmith wrote the book after studying diaries, documents, photographs and transcripts of interviews with people involved in the story of Anthony and Philomena. Although there have been changes to the adoption laws in Ireland the treatment of young mothers with illegitimate children by the church is still being investigated.
All in all a thought provoking book and film.