The Liberation of Brigid Dunne is the first book I have read by Patricia Scanlan and I’m not really sure why as it’s exactly my kind of read. I very much enjoyed following this story of four women from the same family from the 1950s into the present day. And what a family!
First of all, we have Brigid herself. She has been a nun since the 1950s, trained as a paediatric nurse and served in the missions in Africa before returning to Ireland and becoming a Reverend Mother. Her sister Imelda is a rather bitter woman who feels that she has had a raw deal in life and resents the esteem Brigid is held in. Imelda’s daughter Keelin has had an interesting relationship with the Catholic Church over the years and a difficult relationship with her mother. Her daughter Marie-Claire, who is very close to Brigid, has recently returned to Ireland from Canada following a betrayal in her relationship. At a party to celebrate Brigid’s 80th birthday and retiral as Reverend Mother, Imelda’s resentment boils over and more than a few secrets are revealed!
What I found particularly fascinating about this book was the way we can see the role and expectations of women changing throughout the years and how some people were more willing to accept those changes than others. With the Catholic Church forming an important backdrop to the story both in Ireland and further afield, we also get quite an insight into how the Church too has changed over the years. I think the author gave quite a balanced view showing the positive things the Church had done but not glossing over its many faults. She shows as well how keeping secrets can cause sorrow, hurt or in some cases bitterness but that it is perhaps never too late to talk about the past and try to put things right.
At over 500 pages this is a book to really get your teeth into and I loved following all the women throughout the story. It’s a book about strong women who come to understand each other despite their flaws and shows the power of forgiveness. Despite the frustrations they all feel at times, and the misunderstandings, ultimately this is a warm-hearted book with a very satisfying conclusion.
My thanks SJV at publishers Simon & Schuster for sending me an early copy of this book to read. It is available now in ebook, audiobook and hardback editions. If you are able to buy your copy from an independent bookshop, please do support them. Otherwise, you will find buying options for various retailers on the publisher’s website here: The Liberation of Brigid Dunne
From the back of the book
One explosive family reunion. A lifetime of secrets revealed.
When four feisty women from the same family get together at a family reunion, anything can happen…
Marie-Claire, betrayed by her partner Marc, plans to teach him a lesson he will never forget. She travels home from Toronto to Ireland, to the house of the Four Winds, for her great-aunt Reverend Mother Brigid’s eightieth birthday celebrations. It will be a long-awaited reunion for three generations of family, bringing together her mother, Keelin, and grandmother, Imelda – who have never quite got along
And then all hell breaks loose.
Bitter, jealous Imelda makes a shocking revelation that forces them all to confront their pasts, admit mistakes, and face the truths that have shaped their lives. With four fierce, opinionated women in one family, will they ever be able to forgive the past and share a future?
And what of Marc?
It’s never too late to make amends…or is it?
Spanning generations and covering seismic shifts in the lives of women, The Liberation of Brigid Dunne is a compelling, thought-provoking, important and highly emotional novel from a trailblazing author in women’s fiction.
About the author
Patricia Scanlan was born in Dublin, where she still lives. Her bestsellers are APARTMENT 3B; FINISHING TOUCHES; FOREIGN AFFAIRS; PROMISES, PROMISES; MIRROR, MIRROR; CITY GIRL; CITY WOMAN; CITY LIVES; FRANCESCA’S PARTY; TWO FOR JOY; DOUBLE WEDDING; DIVIDED LOYALTIES, FORGIVE AND FORGET and WINTER BLESSINGS, a collection of quotes, blessings, poems and reminiscences.
Patricia is the series editor and a contributing author to the Open Door series. She also teaches creative writing to second-level students and is involved in Adult Literacy.