Missing Persons, Or My Grandmother's Secrets (Hardback)
  • Missing Persons, Or My Grandmother's Secrets (Hardback)
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Missing Persons, Or My Grandmother's Secrets (Hardback)

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Hardback 208 Pages
Published: 25/01/2024
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Waterstones Says

Elegant, erudite and undeniably powerful, Wills' searching family memoir traces the past of a cousin she never knew she had and the appalling conspiracy of silence about the treatment of unmarried mothers in postwar Ireland.

How far would you go for the missing?

When Clair Wills was in her twenties, she discovered she had a cousin she had never met. Born in a Mother and Baby Home in 1950s Ireland, Mary grew up in an institution not far from the farm where Clair spent happy childhood summers. Yet she was never told of her existence.

How could a whole family - a whole country - abandon unmarried mothers and their children, erasing them from history? To discover the missing pieces of her family's story, Clair searched across archives and nations, in a journey that would take her from the 1890s to the 1980s, from West Cork to rural Suffolk and Massachusetts, from absent fathers to the grief of a lost child.

There are some experiences that do not want to be remembered. What began as an effort to piece together the facts became an act of decoding the most unreliable of evidence - stories, secrets, silences. The result is a moving, exquisitely told story of the secrets families keep, and the violence carried out in their name.

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN: 9780241640951
Number of pages: 208
Weight: 320 g
Dimensions: 218 x 138 x 26 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

In its account of one family's history of silence and secrecy, Clair Wills has written a compelling book which demonstrates the uncanny universality of even the most personal stories. Attending to the ways that the past ruptures and grows through the present, this is a history shaken by intimacy - a brave and rigorously humane book. - Seán Hewitt

If the past is a mass of tangled wool, Clair Wills frees a long strand and knits it into clarity, line by line, inviting the reader to see the complexity of the pattern she reveals. Written with elegance and erudition, Missing Persons is an extraordinary, moving achievement. - Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Clair Wills retrieves from time’s abyss a speculative history of universal import. This is a penetrating and affecting study, essential reading for anyone who seeks to understand the profound contradictions, the secrets and lies that define post-famine Ireland. - Paul Lynch

Clair Wills has written a book of unusual subtlety and power. Part memoir and social history, part familial detective story, it's a work that lays bare the strength and terrible frailty of the bonds that are supposed to bind us together. A superb work of narrative nonfiction. - Francisco Garcia

A deeply absorbing account, related with compassion in elegant prose, of how a family's past becomes embedded in its present. - Danielle McLaughlin

This is a brilliant, poignant, discomforting book but one that has the beauty of honesty and the ultimate restorative kindness that truth-telling offers. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the complex typology and legacy of family secrets. - Katherine O’Donnell

In this powerful memoir, Wills manages to excavate the truth about silence. Her vision as a historian reaches for the central question, why and how Irish people kept such dark secrets. How a nation of storytellers became so good at keeping violence concealed from themselves. How the information was kept, manipulated, disremembered under layers of talk into a vast store of collective forgetting. This is not only the story of Ireland in the past, but who we all are and what we have become. - Hugo Hamilton

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“Enthralling, enraging, essential reading.”

You inherit your history through the stories you’re told, but also the ones you’re not. There’s hardly a family in Ireland who doesn’t have their own secrets about unmarried mothers or mother and baby homes, but this... More

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