Until very recently, if a woman became pregnant out of marriage in Ireland, her future was grim. The child was usually taken away, often sold to America; the woman was incarcerated in a convent, one of the infamous "laundries," and everything was swept under the carpet. Young, pregnant and alone, the unlikely heroine of The Lane devises a remarkable strategy and employs a fair amount of courage to take a different path. Not only does Kate sidestep scandal, she manages to keep her child and support them both, feats unheard of in Ireland of the day.
The place is as important as the story. Tucked behind major roads, rows of squat cottages were built to house workers in the very heart of Dublin. What these neighborhoods lacked in amenities they made up for in fraternity. Our girl Kate, now the mysterious wife of an absent husband, becomes ensconced in the Redmond Cottages (a real place that has since been demolished) on the lane off Bath Avenue (a road that has survived.) Her nurse's training and her small son endear her to the close clan on the lane, including a reclusive old man, who shares his own secrets with this brave young woman. It seems all the characters in The Lane go to extraordinary lengths to fit into Irish society. But, more astonishing, they go even farther for love.
In the tradition of Maeve Binchy, The Lane paints a clear and poignant picture of Dublin in the Fifties? its people, their hardships and their humor. The Lane draws a sharp line under the restrictions on Irish women and shows how one woman prevailed.
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December 25, 2010
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