A story of abuse at the hands of the Catholic church comes under fire from the memoirist’s family. THEY don’t want to go to Hell, see?
Her description of being handed over to the notorious “Magdalene laundries” – where difficult children were sent – by an abusive father at the age of eight fed public curiosity about life under the punitive regimes supposedly operating behind the walls of so many convents. To date, it has sold 350,000 copies.
Kathy’s Story also tapped into the outrage generated by The Magdalene Sisters, a black comedy released to critical acclaim in 2002. The film stirred up popular anti-clericalism while celebrating the resilience of those who survived after being incarcerated for “’sinful” behaviour.
“A survivor of the horrific system has never told their personal story – until now,” Mainstream, the Edinburgh publisher, declared in its publicity material. “Kathy O’Beirne spent nearly 14 years under the Magdalene laundry regime. At the age of eight her father called and asked if she wanted to go to the seaside. She was thrilled and ran to the front door only to find a nun waiting for her. She was taken to a Magdalene laundry and didn’t return home until she was 21.”
The trouble with her sensational version of events is that both the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity and now the O’Beirne family have dismissed it as unreliable.
I thought we’d already established that memoir, as a genre, was now to be thought of as “reality-fiction”.