Only yesterday I drew attention to the large sales in the UK which are generated by non-fiction books about people having a thoroughly miserable time. One of the books mentioned was Don't Ever Tell, by Kathy O'Beirne.
Kathy O'Beirne's book is an autobiography, and it describes how she was beaten by her father and sexually abused by two boys from the age of 5 before being sent away to an institution. She claims that at the age of 10 she was repeatedly raped by a priest and whipped by nuns. Later she was forced to take drugs in a mental institution.
All of this happened in Ireland, of course, in case you're in any doubt. And in Ireland the book is titled Kathy’s Story: a Childhood Hell in the Magdalene Laundries.
Don't Ever Tell has so far shifted 350,000 copies, which is a huge total in the UK market. There are 15 readers' reviews on Amazon, and they all give it five stars. But there is, it seems, a small problem.
Today's Times reports that doubts have been expressed, shall we say, as to whether the story is entirely accurate. The first organisation to challenge the account was the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, one of four religious orders which ran the Magdalene laundries (institutions for young women who were seen to be in moral danger). The sisters said that they invited an independent archivist to study their files after nobody could remember Kathy O’Beirne. And no record has turned up of her actually being in such an institution.
Now, says the Times, her own family is about to dispute her story. Five of her brothers and sisters plan to hold a press conference in Dublin today. O’Beirne’s older brother, Oliver, 52, has told an Irish newspaper: 'I read the book and I can’t figure out where she is coming from. My father was a good man. There are nine kids in the family and she is the only one who has any stories of abuse.' Adding that she did not have a good relationship with her family, he said: 'I think she needs help.'
Hmm? What's that I hear you say? Frey? James Frey?
Never heard of him.