WHITE LINEN




Betrayed by their families and the Church, five Irish women were condemned to a lifetime labouring in a convent laundry. Together they made it through. White Linen is the story of the truth tearing their friendships apart.


The novel explores the relationship between individuals and a society which sets great store by appearances and moral codes of behaviour. It exposes the corrupting influence such constraints can have at all levels of society and on many of the people concerned.





The action is centred around the closure in Dublin in the mid-1990’s of the last remaining “Magdalen Laundry” - where women who had “transgressed” moral boundaries were sent.

It focuses on the recollections of four of the “Magdalen women”, who have spent the best part of their lives confined there, working for no pay.



The women are having a final drink in a local bar before going their separate ways, some to live with relatives they barely know, some remaining in the convent . The emotions of leave-taking prompt an outpouring of reminiscences that are profoundly shocking.

Details emerge of why they were sent to the “laundry”, of the lies and deceits that saw them shut away and abandoned by family and friends, often at an early age.

Surprising themselves the women reveal secrets that fundamentally change everything they believed about themselves and their so-called “friends”. Relationships that have endured for decades are fractured, new bitter-sweet alliances are briefly formed, and everyone emerges in a different light.



“White Linen is a brilliantly interwoven story of a group of remarkable characters.
The emotional impact of the novel is powerful.
And the last line is a stunning surprise.”

- Carole Blake, author of “From Pitch to Publication”


“Martin Howe does a great job of getting inside the heads of the women
and in conveying the period details with power and strength.”

- Marianne Gunn O’Connor




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£8.99 • ISBN: 9781789015966

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REVIEWS (12):


“What a wonderful surprise - this book was recommended to me and I loved it. The women’s individuality shine through, their stories are very moving and universal and still very relevant today. Their relationships with each other reveal their characters as well as the cumulative effects of their years working in the convent laundry. And there is a great plot twist at the end. It is beautifully written and pitch perfect for the times it covers including the period details. A great debut novel and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author.” - Becky S

“Martin Howe perfectly captures the stultifyingly narrow world, tedious and harsh conditions endured by five women forced to live a life of servitude in the Magdalen Laundries. Despite having spent their entire adult lives working in this environment under the punitive eye of the Catholic church, with very little outside stimulus or freedom to expand their lives, the different characters of the women come to life and are beautifully drawn. By slowly revealing their background stories, we are given a glimpse of the lives they might have led, of lost opportunities. White Linen is a moving account of one of our history’s great injustices.” - Jane Clargo

“Fictional account of the lives of women in a Magdalen laundry. White Linen vividly tells the stories of five women whose lives have been shaped by cruelty, hypocrisy, and above all betrayal. Martin Howe's great accomplishment is to take the reader beneath the surface experiences of each character to the inner world of the thoughts and feelings of those forced to survive in a hidden world made for them by others. How do you cope with the sheer injustice of a lifetime's institutionalisation? Although fiction, the narrative has the feel of closely observed social history. An extraordinary novel which opens up a big social issue. Would be great for book club discussion.” - Peter B 

I found this book painful to read at times. Martin Howe gets right to the soul of the women of whom he writes. I saw myself and others and it took me back to past which was hard to relive. I highly recommend this book. To me it was more factual than fiction.” - Terry Simard

What a great read! I loved the imagery portrayed at the Magdalen Laundry, I felt like a fly on the wall as it actually happened. The book details an eye-opening and astounding account of the trials and tribulations that actually happened to women who challenged the social boundaries not so long ago. I enjoyed the character development as the story progressed and at times the author created some real nail-biting scenes.” - Jack R

A gripping, shocking story.The women in the book are strong, flawed, very human characters who end up together in the laundry due to prejudiced society. Their individual stories are gripping and the story follows their different fates after the laundry closes. I enjoyed this book very much.” - Diane Lee

Highly recommended. White Linen drew me in from the beginning and I found it difficult to put down. I had no idea that such injustice towards young, vulnerable women occurred in our society until very recently! You can sympathise with each woman's different story and their relationships with each other. I found that the ending was very satisfying and tied all the different stories together. Would highly suggest giving White Linen a read. A very impressive debut novel!” DH

Highly recommended, a great read, once started you can’t put it down!  A Fascinating, sensitively written, well researched insight into the diverse and shocking lives of 5 of the Magdalen laundry girls. The novel begs the question of how did this ever come about? and how does an institution, like the catholic church, ever allow this to continue until the 1990s? Another incident of modern day slavery in our lifetime. A must read book.” - Katy (Goodreads)

Brilliant! An amazing first novel. The clever plot structure weaves the stories of several women together to reveal the truth of these Catholic institutions - contradicting the perceived outlook that they were meant to help the women as opposed to punishing them.” - Frank (Goodreads)

I loved this book. I got completely drawn in and couldn’t put the book down. The writing is wonderfully descriptive. It is sad, bitter sweet, funny but with real moments of page turning tension.”  - Charlie Thorpe

An enthralling book; emotionally-charged and beautifully written page-turner with an unexpected twist at the end. I was completely drawn into the lives, feelings and suffering of the five main female characters. Sadly, I do find it unbelievable that there were convent laundries operating until fairly recently; and the way the women were treated by their family and friends feels still relevant today. A strong recommendation!” - Rios

Compelling book, wonderful characterisation - I loved this book. It is so beautifully crafted, with excellent characterisation. It's a serious, and disturbing subject, but so well written. Looking forward to any further books by Martin Howe, someone to look out for I think.” - Amazon customer


Cargo Collective 2017 — Frogtown, Los Angeles