Unforgivable is the story of a teenage girl and a young nun caught up in the great religious and social upheaval brought on by Vatican II, and a thriving adoption industry driven by society's fierce disapproval of unmarried mothers.
Seventeen-year-old Sylvia, like many unmarried teenage mothers across Australia in 1966, is forced to wait for the birth of her child in one of the homes and hospitals run by the Catholic Church. St Joseph's Hospital, managed by the Sisters of St Anthony, has never had a girl walk out the front gate without first leaving behind her baby. But the sisters had never met Sylvia, defiant and headstrong and determined to keep her child.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.55(d)|
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Unforgivable is the second novel by Australian author, Sharon Robards. In 1966, as a pregnant, unmarried seventeen-year-old, Sylvia is taken to St Joseph’s Hospital, a Catholic Church-run institution catering to unmarried mothers, to await the birth of her baby. The stigma attached to being an unmarried mother is just one of the levers that the nuns in charge use when trying to urge these young women to give up their babies for adoption. But Sylvia, convinced of her lover’s support, is determined to keep her baby. Finding she is virtually a prisoner at St Joseph’s, Sylvia’s resolve is sorely tested as she tries to maintain her stance. This powerful tale is told in thee voices: Sylvia recounts her interactions with the other “waiting girls”, the nuns, her lover and her family; Sister Gregory is a young nun whose vows are tested by the events surrounding this disruptive young woman’s stay; and Kim’s contribution is from the perspective, decades later, of a girl who gave up her baby. All this is set against a background of the changes in the Church instigated by Vatican II, the effects of the Vietnam War and the increased permissiveness sweeping the world during that decade. While some of the practices used in these institutions may leave the reader gasping, the cruelty of certain autocratic nuns will not come as any surprise to those who attended convent schools in that era. Robards has given the reader realistic characters, credible dialogue and the feel of sixties Sydney is deftly conveyed with judicious sprinklings of songs, personalities, events, and fashions. From her setting of the scene alone, it is apparent that Robards has done extensive research. This thought-provoking, sobering book is well worth reading.
Set in 1960s Sydney, Unforgivable tells the story of seventeen-year old pregnant and unmarried Sylvia, who is sent by her parents to St Joseph’s Hospital, a Catholic Church-run institution catering to unmarried mothers, to await the birth of her baby. When Sister Bernard immediately demands that Sylvia sign the adoption papers, Sylvia is equally determined she won’t. She loves her boyfriend, Tommy, who has promised to stand by her, and wants to keep her baby. Very quickly though, Sylvia finds herself a virtual prisoner at St. Joseph’s and realises she must fight to stand her ground, not to mention her battle against the stigma, shame and secrecy of being pregnant and unmarried in 1966 in Australia. Besides Sylvia, the other two main characters are excellently drawn: Kim, who befriends Sylvia, and whose present day perspective, after she gave up her baby, is also cleverly woven into the story. Sister Gregory is an empathetic nun who often struggles with both the Catholic doctrine and her vocation. Unforgivable truly brings to light the plight of unmarried mothers and adoption issues during that time, and we realise how much things have changed since. It also raises issues about national conscription and the Vietnam War and the changes brought to the Catholic Church by Vatican II. Sydney in the sixties is excellently evoked through the author’s use of celebrities, events and fashions of the day. I felt the ending was a bit abrupt, and would have liked more information on Sylvia's later life and what happened to Sister Gregory. However, all in all, Unforgivable was a poignant, authentic and compelling read; a powerful story about unforgivable decisions and acts upon the innocent––young mothers being forced to give up their babies and go back to the real world and carry on as if nothing had happened. Highly recommended.