In my 2018 bid to #ReadTheWorld, I stopped in 1950’s Ireland.
Peggy Bowden has not had an easy life. As a teenager, her mother was committed to an asylum and then a local priest forced her into an abusive marriage. But when her husband dies in an accident Peggy sees an opportunity to start again and trains as a midwife.
In 1950s Dublin it is not easy for a woman to make a living and Peggy sees a chance to start a business and soon a lucrative maternity home is up and running.
But when Peggy realizes that the lack of birth control is an issue for women, she uses their plight as a way to make more money. Very soon Peggy is on the wrong side of the law.
What makes a woman decide to walk down a dark path? Can Peggy ever get back on the straight and narrow? Or will she have to pay for her crimes?
Set against the backdrop of Ireland in the 1950’s The Abandoned tells the story of one woman’s fight for survival and her journey into the underbelly of a dangerous criminal world.
I can honestly say I’ve not read a historical crime fiction novel like this one before – there was so much I enjoyed about this novel and so much that didn’t work for me, and even after pondering my thoughts for a few days, I’m still conflicted.
Let’s start with what I really enjoyed – the character of Peggy Bowden. She was such an interesting character, she had this hard-outer image that she portrayed to the world because she felt it was necessary for her survival, as a woman, in 1950’s Ireland; but I could see this vulnerability in her, and despite some of her horrid actions, it made me warm to her character.
“The back of my hand is wet with my sorrow and shame.”
What Peggy experiences, some will say is karma, but there was one point in this book where my heart broke for her because of what she went through, and she went through it alone.
I really enjoyed the first half of this novel, I liked that the historical fiction setting was the seedy underworld of Ireland as oppose to the “prim and proper” – that gave this novel a dark atmosphere which echoed the themes mentioned in this novel.
Where things started to take a turn for me was when Peggy found herself fully immersed in the criminal underworld. I thought things became a bit too extreme in the sense that this went from being a novel high in believability, a character [Peggy] who’s fate I was interested in learning about in a more profound [for want of a better word] way into this novel with a “criminal gangster vibe” – this change in dynamic didn’t work for me.
There’s no denying The Abandoned is rich in its raw grittiness, and I must mention, it contains themes of back street abortions that some readers may find disturbing, but the overall novel isn’t disturbing in it’s delivery.
As I mentioned I really enjoyed the first half of this novel, can you recommend a book on only enjoying half of it? Sadly, I don’t think you can, but I’ve seen the potential in this novel and I will read Thompson’s next book to see how I find it.
This book is available to buy from: Amazon UK