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Publisher's Summary

Falling pregnant as a teenager in 1952, Philomena Lee was sent to the convent in Co. Tipperary to be looked after as a fallen woman. She cared for her baby for three years until the Church took him and sold him, like countless others, to America for adoption. She spent the next 50 years secretly searching for him, unaware that he was searching for her from across the Atlantic.

©2009 Martin Sixsmith, foreword: 2013 Judi Dench (P)2013 Recorded Books LLC

Critic Reviews

Now a major film starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Title should be Anthony/Michael, NOT Philomena

This is the story of Anthony Lee, with a lot of fictional dialogue and imagined thoughts imposed on the main players. I'm glad I read the book and at certain points I was keen to know what would happen next, but it was a let-down in many ways. The opening chapters tell of Philomena's ordeal living at the convent and giving up her child for adoption, and towards the end we meet Philomena again when her daughter searches for her half brother. But in between these two appearances, the book is about Anthony-Michael. This is all interesting enough, but I kept wondering what was happening to poor Philomena whose grief would have been immense, and the longer she was left out of the story the more irritated I became. I have no idea why the book title is 'Philomena' and why the book cover photo suggests that Philomena and her son are eventually reunited. To me, the publicity for the book and film are very misleading. The narration is little more than a reading of the text. The voice lacks character and the presentation is pretty flat.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Venetia
  • St Cirgues la Loutre, France
  • 03-28-14

Narration terrible

What would have made Philomena better?

A different narrator. This reader just managed to pinpoint the book's weak areas after five hours of misery from him and the self-pity from the characters I couldn't go any further. Perhaps a different narrator would have improved the whole atmosphere. I just couldn't continue.

Would you ever listen to anything by Martin Sixsmith again?

I would listen to this again with a different narrator. The book is supposed to be wonderful. I did find it a bit heavy as there was absolutely no humour at all and some of the poignancy was lost to me because of the endless misery.

What didn’t you like about John Curless’s performance?

Pretty much everything.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Irritation and ultimately disappointment.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Important Story that deserved to be heard

Where does Philomena rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

The story itself is one that is very important to me, the direction in which the book takes the story was a surprise to me, in as much as the detail involved in Michael / Anthonys own personal life. I did have to shelve the book so to speak a number of times as the emotion of sadness and anger overcame me.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Philomena?

Philomena's "own" recollection of the birth of her son and subsequent removal to america was very powerful

What three words best describe John Curless’s performance?

I thought the narrator was poor to be honest. His camp for Michaels friends were unnecessary and at times offensive. His imagining of irish accents in this story were cringeworthy and sometimes took from the story. If this has been another book, i dont think i could have continued with this in mind. I simply dont understand the need to attempt accents in this context.

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

This book is essential reading / listening for irish people, adopted people, birth mothers and indeed catholics alike. Whilst most of these stories are quickly forgotten by the public it is important to remember the cruelty that the irish catholic church in collusion with the state were and still are capable of. Please those of you outside of this story consider that people in Michael / Anthony's position remain unable to legally access their own birth records in 2014. This is the story of today and along with the compensation to the mothers that lost needs to be addressed.

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • mollyeyre
  • 07-18-14

Glory Be!!!

There has been so much hype over this book that I thought 'I MUST read this', so far I have only listened to the first part - almost 8 hours and another 8 to go!! The whole thing could have been said in 2 hours!!
OK there is a sad tale to tell, but Martin Sixsmith's idea of what was going through the minds of Mikey and Mary from their early childhood until their later life is purely fictional, and to me sounds highly improbable, as is the manner of the activities that the older Mikey gets up to (for instance how he thinks a particular boy is deliciously attractive!!).
The narrator has one of those 'If I shout this harshly you'll understand what I am saying' voices which I find most disturbing. I MIGHT manage to tackle the second half of this, but I don't hold out great hopes for that at the moment, it is drawn out to such an extent that it is boring in the extreme.
I can imagine that the film would be slightly better, after all the story IS worth telling, but the fictionalisation (is that a word?) is not done intelligently at all, ... in my opinion of course.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • P J Young
  • 07-07-14

Not what I expected

Would you try another book written by Martin Sixsmith or narrated by John Curless?

Probably not. Having seen the film, which dealt with Philomena's attempts to trace her son, I was very surprised to find a large section of the book was a semi-fictitious account of the childhood and career of Michael/Anthony, the majority of which had little or no bearing on the story of his adoption.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

The Irish side of the story, dealing with the convent babies, how they were adopted and the trauma to both infants and mothers, then the attempts to re-unite them

Have you listened to any of John Curless’s other performances? How does this one compare?

This is the first one. It was passable, but to my mind a little one paced and most of the characters sounded the same.

Do you think Philomena needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

No. If there is one, I shan't bother reading it.

Any additional comments?

Would be a lot better without the middle long centre section on Michael, which could have been dealt with in one or two chapters, and I found extremely boriing

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Anne walker
  • 11-09-15

Disappointed

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

I was really looking forward to this book in view of having read the reviews for the film. Part one was good but then proceeded to give the life story of Mike (previously Anthony) I found this very convoluted and boring , I am still trying to wade my way through Mike's life and not enjoying it very much. I just need to get to what I hope is a happy reunion between mother and son.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Bookthrower
  • 05-20-14

Good Book,Wrong Title

This is a sad but gripping true story of love, loss,betrayal and healing.Very well narrated.
But if you've seen the film you may think this is Philomena's story (as the film is, mostly),
It isn't: it concentrates much more on the life of her son and to some extent, his adoptive sister. This actually made it more interesting to me, as the film largely skimmed over Anthony's life,But the title is misleading.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Julie-Anne
  • 03-12-14

Worth persevering through the narration

It's very rare for a less than brilliant narrator to spoil a book for me - usually I can get past it. In this case it was very hard: the Irish characters sounded like poorly executed Liverpudlian, he gave up on American accents completely which made the obvious US idioms sound ridiculous, and - worse - he stumbled through even the basic story-telling narration. It honestly sounded as though the author had asked a mate to do it on the cheap. Just as well the story was absorbing or I would have claimed a refund.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Caroline
  • 01-11-15

Philomena a great read

A true story, kept me hooked till the end, and so sad.
I have listened to this book several times.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mrs
  • 02-23-14

A Tale of the Time

What made the experience of listening to Philomena the most enjoyable?

I found it a riviting story and the knowledge that it was true added to the fascination.

What other book might you compare Philomena to, and why?

I found Philomena unique and cannot compare it to another book

What does John Curless bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

This was a sympathetic reading of a sad story, he depicted the characters in a subtle way and was totally convincing

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Yearning for Mother love

Any additional comments?

I was surprised by the content of the book and it was written from the point of view of an unexpected character. The situation of young Mothers was horrific in those days and the situation of the child in this book was described in a way which both educated the reader and called on the understanding and sympathy of the listener. A very fine book!

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Lisa Smith
  • 08-31-15

Thought provoking.

Well worth buying. In places the dialogue and performance are a little cringey, but ignore that and crack on. Its a good read.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Christine McLintock
  • 08-02-15

A very moving book

This was a good book which linked to the political history of the USA and the impact of Aids in the 1980s and 90s.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • J. Hamer
  • 08-18-15

rivetting

A moving yet thought provoking story leaving me wanting to know more about historical facts.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Alicia
  • 09-08-14

interesting story

Is there anything you would change about this book?

did not enjoy the narrators bad Irish accents, surely an irish (female) narrator would have been a better choice?

good story though, enjoyed it and i like that it was very long.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Philomena?

the kids getting taken away - harrowing

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

no, disliked the narration

Was Philomena worth the listening time?

yes