Sunday, November 27, 2016

Magdalen Girls by V. S. Alexander

Magdalen Girls by V. S. Alexander, to be publishes December 27, 2016 by Kensington. ISBN ISBN-10: 1496706129 or ISBN-13: 978-1496706126. Paperback, Audio CD or Kindle e/Book.

I had the privilege to read this book for the Amazon Vine program. If you are a frequent reader of my blog, you know I don't consider it a privilege to read a lot of the books from the Vine program as many of the newbie writers just aren't that good. Below is my review of Magdalen Girls.


From the first sentence, I was immersed in this book. The book is based on the true happening at places called Magdalen Laundries. Where girls if they were unwed, too pretty, flirted too much, mentally challenged, etc. were sent to live and work without due process of law. These laundries, many of them attached to convents, were run in silence for the most part, cruel nuns, poor food, poor clothing, inadequate heat and light and no education for girls that were still school age. If one of them somehow managed to escape, the Guard/police (this book taking place in Ireland) would find the girls/women and bring them back. New girls coming to the laundry/convent were placed initially in a penitent’s room. It contained a stool, no windows, no lights, complete blackness while the girl contemplated her 'sins'. Note that for many of the girls, they may have done nothing at all to be sent away, but had been trapped by what others had done to them.
This book covers a little over a year in the life of three of the girls as they managed to make friends with each other. One of the first things they had to give up on admission was their own names and take on the ones assigned to them that were ‘Godlier’ apparently. Then they had to give up their hair as it was chopped short and kept that way. They were given uniforms and aprons to wear with no variation. Monica and Teresa spent every minute they could contemplating escape. Teresa (real name Teagan) is the main character in the book had been caught up in a lie by her parish priest. Monica (Nora) had been caught kissing her boyfriend. Some of the women were 'fallen' in the traditional sense of the word, yet did they deserve a life sentence washing dirty clothes because of it? Remember, these young women were sent here at family’s requests, not by any legal means. They were not released on their coming of legal age birthday, but had to stay there until or if, and it was a very big IF, someone such as a family member came and requested their released.
This was a fascinating story of the inner workings of the inner working of a fictionalized Magdalen Laundry. If you would like more information about them, do an internet search for Magdalen Laundries and I'm sure you will be very surprised. The thing that surprised me the most, was not that this was happening in the 1860's, but the book took place in 1962! the last one closed in 1996. Some women too old to live on their own and with no family left, and after having spent their lives as inmates, are still living at the convents. A movie about this has also been made that can be rented via Amazon. Actual copies seem hard to find and expensive.
Many thoughts came my way as I read this book. The horror of it for one thing; that a girl can be happily be going to high school, starting in with a first boyfriend, and due to circumstances beyond their control find themselves locked away in a place such as these Magdalen Laundries....for the rest of their lives! One of the simple things that I find hard to comprehend while reading this book as well as the fictional Jane Eyre and others like them; was why were the cooks in these places always burning the toast, burning or undercooking the food constantly? Considering that many of these places emphasized frugality, why were they purposely wasting food or making it so terrible that no one would eat it. Wasn't it enough that the people are locked up and their freedom taken away, but they had to eat deliberately spoiled food? Why would any cook worth the name deliberately make food bad as an extra punishment? I talked to my Mennonite cleaning lady about this and she too was appalled at the thought of wasting food in that way by deliberately not cooking it correctly. It takes less effort to make toast without burning it than burning it intentionally.

Lousy food was just one way to poke these girls with a stick. They also were rarely allowed to talk to each other. In this book they slept in a unheated attic garret in winter and with only one window that could be opened in summer until the nuns nailed it shut. And they wore rags. This book, as I had to keep reminding myself, took place in 1962. These were teen aged girls that had grown to like pretty clothes and showing their personality through what they wore and how they did their hair. Not so at the laundries. They wore uniforms with an apron and their hair was kept super short with haircuts every two weeks to keep it that way. No way would or should these girls look desirable to any guy was the apparent reason. The whole idea of these laundries was awful; yet they or similar ones were operated around the world until the 1990's! Who knew?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Heat Press Batting Together Book-Build As You Go Machine Quilting

This is a review for Heat Press Batting Together Book-Build As You Go Machine Quilting by Amy Smith and Jean Harwood                                                                                                 

This book was more of a booklet than a book. I didn't realize just how few pages there would be. The only color photos were on the back and front cover of the booklet. The quilt on the front cover is in reality, a table runner and not nearly big (at least from the instructions measurements inside the book) as it looks. So if you think you will get a baby or twin size quilt if you make this, you would have to add more blocks to get it wide enough.

ALL the illustrations inside the book were small black and white photos which made the steps difficult to see. For me doing a quilt as you go type quilt, literally means that! When you have finished the last block and attached it to the quilt, other than the binding, the quilt is done. In this case, once you have the quilt put together, then you add the entire backing and use machine stitches to tack it down so it will stay in place. I'm also hesitant to start a project that requires extra supplies that need to be bought whether at a store, if any of my local fabric or quilting stores have them, or buy them on line.

One thing I was hoping to see more of was the decorative stitches. This was sort of the case where like many quilt instructions end with a quilt as desired - period, the end. I would have liked to see some info on best stitches to use if you have them such as which looks better satin stitches or a single stitch decorative design. I realize fully that many don't have all the wonderful stitches that are available to use, but at this point, every book I have ever seen that talks about using the decorative stitches, just seems to do the decorative stitches as desired thing. Perhaps I need to write a book that gives some guidance here!

The book does give some interesting ideas that can be used as part of a quilt as you go quilting method, but to me, it seems to be adding steps, not taking them away. I'm in the midst of a quilting project currently, but when I'm done I will probably try another quilt as you go quilt and see if some of the book's ideas will be helpful. Since we all approach quilting in a different manner, some might find this book to be of tremendous value. It would still help if other editions were made to have the photos in color though.

According to the description of the book Build As You Go, This second book includes the backing as part of the building process. Wish I had bought it first to see how the authors deal with all three layers of a quilt at the same time as well as attaching them.