BOOK REVIEW: Ten Hail Marys (Kate Howarth, UQP)

Kate Howarth was only a baby when her mother abandoned her after she was caught trying to throw her off a balcony. Her grandmother grudgingly looked after her, shunting her back and forth between relatives, before making her a ward of the state. Ten Hail Marys traces Howarth’s early childhood into adolescence and gives the reader a unique insight into the lives of Indigenous people in inner Sydney and rural New South Wales in the 1950s and 1960s. Howarth is a natural storyteller, combining powerfully wrought portraits of her extended family with deft imagery of landscape and place. She was a victim of childhood abuse and poverty, but her remarkable strength enabled her to survive. At 15 years of age she became pregnant, and was sent off to St Margaret’s Home for unwed mothers in Sydney. This achingly poignant memoir is shocking in its revelation of the Catholic Church’s treatment of unwed mothers—abuse and intimidation tactics failed to convince Howarth to give her baby up for adoption. Her ability to withstand such cruelty is testament to her indomitable spirit. This compelling story is an important part of Australia’s social history. Filled with pathos, energy and insight, it will appeal to a broad readership.

Julia Stirling is an ex-bookseller and freelance reviewer. This review first appeared in the April issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

6 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: Ten Hail Marys (Kate Howarth, UQP)

  1. I loved every word in your book Kate. Your story could be many girls stories. Congratulations on being brave enough to tell your story with candidness without shame.

  2. Thank you Barry and Maggie Ann. It was a tough story to tell, but the feedback that it has helped people makes the effort worthwhile.

  3. The book was wonderful, heartbreaking; the type of book that stays with you long after you’ve read it and challenges the way you think. It has finally given me an understanding of what two of my aunts also went through in the 1960s. What an amazing woman to have the courage to stand up for what she believes in and tell her story – an inspiration.

  4. Kate,

    You are a beautiful person, the courage you have is outstanding. Good on you for standing up for what is rightfully yours. I really want to thank you for opening my eyes to just how hard it was for aborigional women back in the 1960’s. I want to thank you also for having the courage to write such a personal story, you truly are an inspiration to every one out there.
    Well done 🙂

  5. Dear Kate, What a book; I could not put it down until finished; you are an amazing woman! Thank you for sharing your life with us who will never truly understand what it was like; we can imagine but it is very difficult to put yourself into your place. I don’t think your story will ever leave me. Love and blessing to you, Kaye xx

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