Penance – Theresa Talbot

penance front cover

Penance by Theresa Talbot

The Last Word Review


Set in Glasgow and inspired by the events that took place at the Magdalene Institution, the horrors of the stories about the girls being abused in the care of the Magdalene Institutions run by the Catholic Church. These appalling houses were nothing more than sweat shops were laundry houses similar to those in Ireland. The girls who were kept there where nothing more than slaves.

Theresa Talbot’s stunning debut Penance is part historical and part fiction as the terrible events at the Institution are told in a dramatic story of the true events that the those that ran the Institution wanted buried and forgotten.


We find journalist Oona O’Neill setting about uncovering the truth of what really happened behind the closed doors of the Glasgow based institution. The girls aged between 15 and 19 years yet guilty of no crimes faced repeated abuse and the how the girls staged a riot and break-out they were desperate to get their story out there at the time the home was being investigated and

The story is based around three of the girls who were the force behind the break-outs in 1958 and the story is told through looking back in a series of flashbacks from 1958 to 2000 and is reads like a crime novel whether this was the intention by Talbot it really works. With the authors background in the media she portrays Oona perfectly. When Oona decides there is a shocking story to be told she uses her character to get into the story where others would not be so successful. Oona herself is having a pretty awful time of her own but this does not stop her from finding the truth even when her own life is being threatened.

This is without doubt a book that packs a punch and at times makes for very uncomfortable reading. The flashbacks come just at the right time and make this a page turner of a read with some fascinating characters especially DI Alec Davies.

Penance is a story I wholeheartedly recommend you read as the more we talk about the shocking events that took place the more we will remember the victims of the crimes that took place at the Magdalene Institutions and such Asylums many of whom do not have a voice. These women must never be forgotten.

Penance by Theresa Talbot is published by Strident Publishing Limited and is available through Waterstones and Amazon.