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Book Review | The Girl Behind the Gates by Brenda Davies

I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts with you about The Girl Behind the Gates by Brenda Davies.

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Book cover for The Girl Behind the Gates by Brenda Davies
  • Publisher : Hodder Paperbacks (23 July 2020)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1529374545
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1529374544

1939. Seventeen-year-old Nora Jennings has spent her life secure in the certainty of a bright, happy future – until one night of passion has more catastrophic consequences than she ever could have anticipated. Labelled a moral defective and sectioned under the Mental Deficiency Act, she is forced to endure years of unspeakable cruelty at the hands of those who are supposed to care for her.

When psychiatrist Janet Humphreys comes across Nora, heavily institutionalised and still living in the hospital more than forty years after her incarceration, she knows that she must be the one to help Nora rediscover what it is to live. But as she works to help Nora overcome her past, Janet realises she must finally face her own.

Based on a true story, The Girl Behind the Gates is the raw, heart-breaking yet ultimately uplifting tale of a young woman cut down in her prime, and of the woman who finally brings her back to life, perfect for fans of The Girl in the Letter and Philomena.

Book Review

The Girl Behind the Gates by Brenda Davies pushed me out of my comfort zone, sometimes to the point where I had to stop reading so that I could think about Nora’s experiences and try to re-frame them into something acceptable. 

But that never happened. 

I found it difficult to accept that the interventions and practices at that time were mainstream. 

17 year old Nora Jennings with her genteel way of life with her family in 1939 is incomparable with the Nora who has to bury her personality and spirit so that she is left alone and not victimised. 

Harrowing scenes with Sister Cummings affected me deeply in the pit of my stomach – the loss of identity, the cruelty, the degradation and the humiliation made me squirm.  Powerless.  

There is a poignant scene in 1966 when Dr Mason retires (I loved that he was there at an important scene in Part Two).  I read Part One clutching tightly to the book.

With the arrival of Janet Humphrey’s in the second part of the story in 1981 comes a salve. 

It’s not an easy undertaking to find the Nora that’s ‘buried,’ especially with what is going on in Janet’s personal life.  Her strength in not giving up and adaptability to thinking creatively sees a change begin to emerge in Nora. 

Slowly we see the person that Nora is as she begins to trust in her new environment and life.  Truths emerge too which also bring a healing.  And the healing isn’t just for Nora.  After the horror of 1939 onwards, 1981 and moving forwards is often a blessing and a joy, even though I cried so much more when I was reading this second part! 

Nora Jennings true story is powerful.  Nora will live in my heart for a very long time.

Dr Brenda Davies has also written The Girl Behind the Gates screenplay. I’m hoping that she can get the backing – Nora Jennings should not be forgotten and we should be able to learn about her story in different media.

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Born and raised in County Durham, UK, Dr Brenda Davies is a Consultant Psychiatrist, author, broadcaster, spiritual teacher and Principal of the Brenda Davies International School of Healing and Spiritual Development. She teaches both online and in workshops internationally. Graduates of her school hail from the UK, Ireland, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the USA and Zambia. She has done peace-building, conflict resolution and healing work also in Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Cambodia, Israel, Russia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Spain. Turkey, Greece and elsewhere. Having lived in the UK and USA, her great love has been Zambia where she spent many happy and exciting years. She is now happily settled in Wales.

Her book, ‘Journey of the Soul’, was nominated for the Kindred Spirit Award. ‘The Girl Behind the Gates’ is her first novel.

‘The Rainbow Journey’ is also available on CD as are her meditations – ‘Just be’, ‘Welcoming Prosperity’ and ‘Soul Garden’. Her DVDs ‘Finding a Place of Peace and Healing Within’ and ‘Journey to our Inner Core’ are available from www.brendadavies.com.

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