16 March 2011

For the Love of Willie by Agnes Owens

Brief Synopsis
This is the story of Peggy. They story split between Peggy's life in the present, as a middle aged woman in a mental facility/woman's prison and Peggy's life as a teenage girl during WWII. Peggy tells the story of her teen pregnancy while she is in the mental facility.

Thoughts and Reflections
This was an interesting book. I came across it one day when I googled (ya, I'm going to use google as a verb...) Scottish authors. I read the book quickly. It is fairly short and easy to read. However, though the language was simple, words were carefully chosen and used wonderfully well to drive a point home. As I was rapidly coming to the end of the novel, though, I thought that there really wasn't much to the novel. With the ending only pages away, I felt that the book was only starting. However, the ending certainly packed a punch and has left me thinking about it for some time now. 

Part of the novel discusses life in the mental facility. I admit, I was appalled. At this point, I had no idea why Peggy was placed here, but she seemed sane enough, if not a bit moody. General discipline, treatment, and rehabilitation was issued through heavy doses of drugs and sedatives. The book even mentioned that a typical method of dealing with a teenage girl who found herself pregnant was to put her in such a facility, at least until she gave birth and the child could be adopted. Due to my current research on youth detention centres, these descriptions of the treatment of the detainees was nauseating. These facilities are few and far between, but the book was a reminder how recently they were the norm of treating people who didn't quite meld into the broader society.

Through out the book, I wondered why Peggy was in a mental facility. Only in the very last pages (the very last words, actually), does the author reveal the reason. These final words bring the entire story to light.What seemed like a relatively aimless story, becomes rather pointed. With the final sentence, my mind raced back to review the entire book, its characters, events, and themes. 

One lingering thought that I have regarding Peggy is how unsupported she was in her life. No where, in any of her circumstances did she receive warm support from those around her. Her story became a lonely tale, but also frustrating in that those that should have offered her love and support didn't. Not that they failed to do so, but they just didn't support her. Even at the very end of the novel, she lacked support. However, somewhere in her life, she seemed to cease to need support and become a supporter. In this role of supporter, she finds some sense of being in her life after the mental hospital 

All in all, I really enjoyed this novel. The themes and protagonist are still lingering in my mind. Though the book appeared short and simple, it certainly made an impression on me. I'd certainly recommend this book. 

About the Author
Agnes Owens was born in 1926 in Milngavie on the west coast of Scotland. She has worked a number of random jobs, such as cleaner, typist, factory worker and writer. She has been married twice and has raised several children. Her first work, Gentlemen of the West, was published in 1984. For the Love of Willie was published in 1998 and was short listed for the Stakis Prize. 

Things I Liked About This Novel
1. Peggy. I don't know that I so much liked the protagonist, as she made a strong impression on me.
2. The simple writing style, but words that were loaded and packing a strong punch
3. The ending. 

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