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Jessica
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Registered: ‎09-24-2006
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Questions for Maggie O'Farrell

Do you have a question for Maggie? Reply to this message to start the conversation!
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IBIS
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Re: Questions for Maggie O'Farrell

Maggie, I saw a movie several years ago called, I think, THE MAGDALENE SISTERS. It covers a similar plot line as your novel, THE VANISHING ACT...

It takes place in Ireland during the 40s, where young women were left in convents for a variety of reasons. I'm sure you're familiar with it.

And I wondered if you'd heard or seen this movie, and if it helped you in your research for this novel?
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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MaggieOFarrell
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Re: Questions for Maggie O'Farrell

Hi,

Yes, I have seen the film. I saw it on DVD about the time I was finishing ESME. I thought it was brilliantly written and beautifully acted, particularly Anne Marie Duff. The Magdalen Laundries were very common in Ireland and were basically labour camps for girls who had offended society and/or the Church in some way. They were still in operation when I was born, in the early 1970s. My mum told me recently that other mothers she knew in Ireland at the time used to send their nappies to them. There's a memoir been written by a woman who spent some years in one ... I forget what it's called now. If I remember, I'll let you know.

All the best and thanks for writing,

Maggie
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Fozzie
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Maggie O'Farrell

Maggie, did you do any research on how Alzheimer's patients think? (Does any such research even exist?) I thought the technique you used to convey Kitty's thoughts was wonderful. Could you talk about how you decided on it?
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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emeburke
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Registered: ‎11-15-2007
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Re: Questions for Maggie O'Farrell

Hi Maggie,

I enjoyed this book immensely!

My question for you: Esme asks Iris when Iris's father's birthday is. She responds the 28th, which profoundly affects Esme, for reasons we find out later in the novel. One thing, however, that didn't add up for me:

Didn't Kitty pretend to go away to have the baby she was secretly adopting? In that case, wouldn't everyone (including her son Robert and subsequently Iris) have a later date that Kitty gave everyone to support her story?

Thanks,
Michelle
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Stephanie
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Maggie O'Farrell

I'm not sure, of course, but I got the impression that Kitty found out about Esme's pregnancy before the baby was born, giving her time to "go away" in advance of the birth. She was there, taking him, the minute he was born, wasn't she? (I keep leaving my books in the bedroom, and husband is sleeping in there!)
Stephanie
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MaggieOFarrell
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Re: Questions for Maggie O'Farrell

Hi Laura,

Thanks for your mail. I'm glad you liked Kitty's sections - it was one of things I have enjoyed writing most.

I didn't do research, as such. I used to know an old lady who had Alzheimer's. I was fascinated by the meanderings her conversations took and the way she would jump from topic to topic, often mid-sentence. And also the way there were threads or themes she would return and return too, obviously things from her past that still bothered her. So I suppose I modelled Kitty's way of speaking on her.

Hope this answers your question.

All the best,
Maggie
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MaggieOFarrell
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Registered: ‎10-10-2007
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Re: Questions for Maggie O'Farrell

Dear Michelle,

Thanks for your mail. I'm very pleased you liked the book.

I think what Stephanie said is right. Kitty does go away in order to keep up the pretense of pregnancy. But she's known about Esme's pregnancy from quite early on so has planned to be back - in secret - in time for the birth. So Robert's birth date would always have been his real one, on the 28th.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Maggie
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Stephanie
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Maggie O'Farrell

Maggie,

Your writing of Kitty was so tremendously effective- I was apoplectic over her! I know I felt some small pities for her - her concerns over being an old maid must have been very real to her, and appropriate for her time. Esme had my heart- perhaps because I was something of a Tomboy myself, and felt the same way about marriage as she did at that age. Kitty's treatment of Esme still makes me incredulous --- especially for a "big sister" who should have been caring for her sibling, rather than putting her aside so that she could have a pretense of a life. You really riled me up with this one Maggie!
Stephanie
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