Book Review: My Secret Mother by Phyllis Whitsell

I picked up My Secret Mother by Phyllis Whitsell as the subject of this memoir intrigued me. Whitsell tells the story of how she was abandoned and then adopted by a Catholic family. She begins her search for her birth mother as an adult and, after years of searching, discovers that her mother is the local alcoholic known as ‘Tipperary Mary’. The memoir describes the journey of a young woman who finds her birth mother and who begins to care for her in the role of a nurse.

The story has the potential to be both interesting, emotionally charged, and enlightening and I looked forward to reading it. However, I was to be disappointed. The writing style is very staccato and does not encouraged the reader to feel any emotion. Instead the reader is presented with a factual and dry account of a series of events.

“There seemed to be a lot of whispering going on in the house and I was not included. Suddenly I felt really angry and could stand it no longer. If I was going to be sent back to the orphanage I needed to know, so I screamed, “What is happening to me and where will I be going?’ To my amazement I was not reprimanded for screaming out with such anger in my voice.” (p47, Harper Collins, 2015)

I found the many accounts featured in the novel to be tedious and pedantic – and often repetitive. Even though the book is a memoir, it could have been written in a more interesting way: the environment could have been described and the writer’s emotions referred to in a more engaging way.

I would not recommend this book to any reader. Even though the blurb on the book cover sounds interesting, the way in which the book is written does not captivate and hold a person’s interest.

Do you enjoy reading memoirs?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 21st in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

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10 thoughts on “Book Review: My Secret Mother by Phyllis Whitsell

      1. The book business is very competitive and many of them have cut expenses in the editing/proofreading department leaving it all up to computer programs like spell check. At least that is what I believe.

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  1. No amount of editing can really fix a story badly told. Even if the editor rewrites, the memoir depends on the reactions of the narrator and the editor can’t invent those.

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