Book Review | Ten Hail Marys

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Ten Hail Marys | Kate Howarth

Ten Hail Marys is the courageous story of one woman’s fight to keep her child at a time in Australia’s history when unwed mothers were expected, and often forced, to give their children up for adoption. With amazing candour Kate Howarth recounts the first seventeen years of her life in Sydney where she was constantly moved between relatives, living in slums and rural New South Wales. With a Mother who didn’t want her, a volatile Grandmother who raised her and never knowing who her Father was, Howarth created a life for herself and when she fell pregnant at fifteen she was determined to keep her child.

Through unimaginable hardships and cruelty Howarth’s determination is extraordinary. We so often carry such a rose-tinted view of the 1960s as a time of free love, women’s liberation and shedding the shackles of the conservative 50s but the truth is that women still carried residual stigma when it came to promiscuity and mothers had little to no rights when it came to their own children. The ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ attitude towards domestic violence and rape is heartrendingly depicted and the distinct lack of rights afforded to women shockingly apparent.

Told with such frank honesty, Ten Hail Marys is as uplifting as it is harrowing, with Howarth a natural storyteller. Touching on the politics of the time, particularity when it came to Indigenous Australians, much of which I simply just didn’t know and was shocked to discover, this book serves as a valuable reminder of past wrongs and as a symbol of hope that they will never be repeated. It has been a long time since a book has moved me like this one and filled me with such admiration for the author who not only lived through this but had the courage and resilience to tell her story. I could not put it down and cannot recommend it highly enough.

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