Rock Me Gently

Rock Me Gently : A True Story of a Convent Childhood

3.41 (191 ratings by Goodreads)
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For many years I suffered the nightmares born of the time I spent at that convent. The memories that project across my mind are shared by the silent community of victims who once lived as I did, in a world that was deaf to our circumstances. And it all took place in middle England. In the 1950s, shortly after her father's death, Judith Kelly was left in the care of nuns at a Catholic orphanage while her mother searched for a place for them to live. She was eight years old. Far from being cared for, Judith found herself in a savage and terrifying institution where physical, emotional and sexual abuse was the daily norm and the children's lives were reduced to stark survival. As the months became years and no word came from her mother, she sought comfort instead from the girls around her, and especially the bright, angel-voiced Frances, who seemed miraculously untouched by the nuns' persecution and the abject misery surrounding her. When a tragic accident robbed Judith of her dearest friend, the traumatic memories of the event were to trouble her deeply, long into her adult life. Years later, at a kibbutz in Israel, Judith met and befriended an elderly Holocaust survivor. It was a friendship that began with an instinctive recognition of the fear and suffering each had experienced, and one that would begin an emotional journey culminating in Judith's return to the Nazareth House orphanage to confront her memories and to achieve some measure of peace. Rock Me Gently is an astonishing, moving and deeply shocking memoir, and a story that resonates in the mind long after the final more

Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 152 x 230 x 24mm | 399.16g
  • Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • London, United Kingdom
  • Airport and Export ed
  • 0747573522
  • 9780747573524

Review Text

A hotly disputed, would-be-tear-jerking memoir, updated with a mea culpa. In 1951, Kelley's widowed mother was forced to leave her eight-year-old, half-Jewish daughter in the care of Catholic nuns, portrayed here as sadistic cartoons. "Don't think that just because you're children you can't fall down dead at any moment," one of them is shown telling her wide-eyed young charges. "You'll just feel a pinprick and then you'll be gone." Such pronouncements are hardly uncommon in Kelly's tediously macabre description of a tormented childhood. She extensively catalogues the physical and psychological cruelties she and her peers suffered at the hands of the nuns, interspersing flash-forwards to her attempts to make a home for herself on an Israeli kibbutz in 1972. Culminating in the drowning of Kelly's angelic friend Frances, the memoir drags readers through a long, aggrieved account filled with one-dimensional juvenile heroes and fiendish adult villains straight out of Dickens and 101 Dalmatians, though less cleverly depicted. The more interesting material in this revised version is the defense Kelly mounts against charges of plagiarism and fabrication that surfaced after the original text became a U.K. bestseller in 2005. This U.S. edition does not contain the passages lifted wholesale from books like Jane Eyre, Graham Greene's Brighton Rock and Antonia White's Frost in May, but it reprints newspaper articles detailing plagiarism the author insists was accidental, as well as letters from other orphans attesting to the veracity of her story. The apologetic introduction, which seeks to explain how a woman still grieving over her childhood found comfort and meaning in the works of more talented writers, offers Kelly's truest and most moving prose. Further evidence that harrowing experiences do not necessarily make great art. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Author information

Judith Kelly was born in Southampton. After leaving a Catholic orphanage in the mid-1950's, where the events of Rock Me Gently took place, she was placed into the Licensed Victuallers' School. There she was encouraged by her English teacher to read widely and develop her talent for writing. After leaving school, Judith spent time on a kibbutz in Israel. When she returned to England, she was accepted into Chelsea School of Art and thereafter worked for the Keeper of the British Collection at the Tate Gallery, London, until she began her career in television production at TV-am, Reuters and BSkyB. Now retired, Judith Kelly runs a support group for those who were abused by priests and nuns within the Catholic more

Rating details

191 ratings
3.41 out of 5 stars
5 19% (37)
4 29% (55)
3 32% (61)
2 14% (26)
1 6% (12)
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