The Whipping Club is a truly haunting and literary debut. Telling the story of a clash of faiths, societies and a struggle against a system that is mindless as it is heartless.
In 1957 Dublin, Ireland, Marian McKeever is a newly minted teacher, and substituting a job at Dublin’s Zion School in the Jewish quarter for world travel. She meets, falls in love with and gets pregnant by Ben Ellis, a rising star journalist, and a Jew. Filled with a sense of shame for having done ‘the dirty deed,’ and proving herself a bad girl, because real ladies waited, she allows herself to be castigated and further shamed by her uncle, a newly ordained priest. He convinces her that not only did she commit the sin, but with a Jew at that, and interfaith marriages never work, even if he’d have her.
Further, it would be unfair to confront the young man and demand he do the right thing, for this reason and also for the simple fact that even were he Catholic, he would always resent her. Her uncle convinces her, actually demands, that she take a long ‘vacation’ with him, and so she does where she is housed in a catholic Mother Baby Home to have the child and give him up for adoption.
As her delivery date draws near, she is browbeaten and convinced by one of the crueler sisters to come up with 100 pounds, a princely sum, to insure the baby is adopted by an American family and taken to America where they won’t care he was born in sin and is of mixed race. She comes up with the price. This is no simple home for unwed mothers. Sister Paulinus and Sister Agnes never miss a chance to “purge the sins” of those who have entrusted themselves to their care. The quarters are spartan, nearly penal with all outside contact cut off and any comfort taken away. the women are made to labor, even as they grow large as their dates arrive. They are made to mow the lawn by pulling it by hand, to scrub the floors on hand and knee.