Review of 'A Daughter's Secret', a novel by Anne Bennett.
I am reviewing the paperback edition of the book, 608 pages, ISBN 978-0007226047, Publisher Harper Collins, cover price £6.99. Genre:- Family Saga.
Agnes Sullivan is the eldest child of Thomas John and Biddy Sullivan. The family live in Donegal, Ireland. The story starts in 1898 when Agnes, or Aggie as she is known to her family, is 14 years of age. Aggie is little more than a skivvy to her mother, she cares for her younger siblings and having left school is expected to take on greater responsibility around the house.
Aggie is learning Irish country dancing along with a friend, they are being taught by Bernie MacAllister, the husband of local shop keeper, Philomena. MacAllister has a dark past clouded by unsavoury habits which he strives to hide.
One evening, after MacAllister's dancing class, Aggie's brother Tom finds his sister drunk, bloodied and crying in the lane near their farm. He helps his sister home and she confides that she has been brutally raped by Bernie MacAllister. Tom swears to avenge his sister's attacker.
Heartbroken and ashamed, Aggie forced to flee her family home when it becomes apparent that she is pregnant as a result of her ordeal. She faces up to MacAllister who steals the money for her fare to England from his wife's shop, gives her the address of his sister in Birmingham and tells her that his sister will get rid of the baby and look after her. He informs Aggie that she must keep quiet about the predicament she finds herself in, as no one will believe the word of a stupid teenager against that of a respectable married man.
Aggie knows that her strict mother would never accept a pregnant and unmarried daughter in her home and so she takes MacAllister's money.
Aggie flees to Birmingham but the safe haven she hopes to find is non existent and she has no option but to accept help from an unexpected quarter, a prostitute.
The plot then follows the fates, fortunes and misfortunes Aggie's life leading up to the First World War and beyond.
**About the Author**
Anne Bennett was born in the Horse Fair district of Birmingham in 1949. The second daughter of Roman Catholic Irish immigrants, she grew up in a tight-knit community. Anne married young and when her eldest two children reached school age, she returned to education herself, qualifying as a teacher. She taught for many years in schools the north of Birmingham and had two more children.
An accident at work put an end to her teaching career. Anne was confined to a wheelchair, as the nerves to her legs were cut off by fibrosis following the spinal injury she suffered as a result of her accident.
Anne and her family moved to North Wales and this gave her the opportunity to write full time. In August 2006 the scar tissue around Anne's spinal chord inexplicably broke down and she regained the use of her legs, after sixteen years in a wheelchair, Anne was able to walk again.
Anne Bennett has four children and four grandchildren and still lives in North Wales. More information and a full bibliography can be found on her website:-
**Availability and Cost**
My copy of this novel bears the jacket price of £6.99, I must admit that I purchased it in Asda supermarket for a bargain £1 during their January sale, along with a stack of other novels.
The book is available from various online and High Street booksellers. Current online stockists and prices include:-
**My Thoughts and Conclusion**
I really enjoyed this novel, it is a gritty story with believable characters and a well rounded plot. A Daughter's Secret contains all the essential elements of good novel in my opinion, the plot includes humour, drama, love, family loyalties, heartache and loss, just as real life can do. I took this book with me recently when my partner and I had our first weekend trip this year in our camper van, the weather was rough and I read it in two sittings, it was a real page turner of a novel!
The Sullivan family are a dysfunctional bunch, a bossy mother who rules with a rod of iron and is bitter and dissatisfied with her life, a father who goes along with his wife for peace and quiet and children who prove to be a trial and source of disappointment to their mother.
The central characters, Aggie and her brother Tom are shown warts and all. Tom appears a weak man to the casual observer, ruled by his domineering, autocratic mother, but beneath his meek and gentle exterior is a man with an inner strength. Aggie is also weak, she is one of life's victims who try as she might to improve her lot, always succumbs to the very things that keep her downtrodden, drink and drugs.
I particularly liked the way Anne Bennett has shown how life was during the early twentieth century for Irish immigrants. Her novel shows people flocking to England in the hope of improving their lot, yet merely swapping the poverty in the green fields of rural Ireland for inner city slums and yet more hardship. A Daughter's Secret is a curious insight into the life and times of these folk, it is not a sentimental family saga, it is a gritty, gutsy read with a glimpse into social structure of England from 1900 to 1943.
I would recommend this novel to others.
Thank you for reading.
©brittle1906 April 2010.
N.B. My reviews may be found on other review sites under the same user name.