Thursday, 6 June 2013

Mama Tina

I don't usually write about books on this blog but recently I have seen questions on twitter and facebook asking "What is your favourite book" or "Which book inspired you the most".
I never have an answer to those questions because I must have read hundreds of books over the years and loved lots of them. Last week I was reading the newspaper when I saw an article about a book I read back in 1995,before the days of kindle, the days when you read a book and passed it on to friends. Everyone was reading and talking about this book and when I started to read it I couldn't put it down.
The book was Bridge Across My Sorrows by Christina Noble.

Christina was born in The liberties in Dublin in 1944 and If you've ever read books by the likes of Frank McCourt you'll know what a poor place it was to live in.
Her mother died leaving Christina and her five brothers and sisters with their alcoholic father who, when he could no longer cope sent four of them to live with relatives where Christina was sexually abused. The children were then split and Christina was sent to an orphanage many miles away run by nuns who told informed her that her brothers and sisters had died.
She was so badly treated there that she ran away and lived rough on the streets of Dublin where she was raped by a group of men.
After more traumatic experiences she moved to England, married and had three children. Unfortunately that didn't work out as her husband too was abusive towards her.
During that unhappy time she dreamt about Vietnam and children running down a street towards her with open arms,she had no idea what her dream meant but it compelled her to one day visit Vietnam.
One of the parts of the book that sticks in my mind is of Christina sitting on a bus,she passes an advertising billboard, it has the words Vietnam on it as she looks at it the letters burst into flames,she blinks and the flames have gone but she saw it as a sign, she must go to Vietnam.
Christina waited until her children were grown and flew to Ho Chi Minh City,just for a visit.
When she sees the street children or "bui doi" as they are called which means, "the dust of life" she knows why she is there. She approaches a large oil company and gets some finance to open a medical and social centre for the children. Christina works tirelessly both in the centre and fund raising. She walks the streets 
encouraging children to come for a medical check up,a shower and some food and it's not always easy.
Twenty years on and the Christina Noble Children's Foundation has helped over 700,000 street children in Vietnam and since 1989 she has helped child prisoners in Mongolia.
She has been named as "Mother Theresa with Balls" as she fought governments and bureaucracy in order to help the children.
The first book is now available for kindle  Bridge Across My Sorrows 
it is mainly about her childhood in Dublin with a few chapters about Vietnam.
Mama Tina is more about her work in Vietnam.
It is so long since I read her books that I'm going to download them and read them again. I have no doubt that when the film is released the book will go to number one in the bestsellers as everyone will want to read it and it will obviously have a lot of publicity. I can't find out who is playing Christina but Brendon Coyle (Bates from Downton) is starring in it.
The books are not an easy read, but there is much more to the story than I have written here. They will shock you, make you angry, have you in tears but most of all they will show you what an inspirational woman Christina Noble is. At 68yrs, a breast cancer survivor and plagued with ill health over the years she is still fighting for the children and still saving children's lives.
Watch out for the film!


  1. Sounds like I need to have these on my Kindle for my next trip - thanks for highlighting them, Anne.

  2. You will hear soon as its a big Hollywood movie of her life that's being made just now.

  3. Im going to read them again too Jo.

  4. An amazing story. It is sad that she is not better known. Hopefully the fil will bring her to public attention. She sounds admirable.

  5. Really brilliant review, Anne. Made me go straight and buy it! One more for the long list but this one I WILL read!
    Seems such an inspirational story.

  6. What a sad and yet uplifting story. The bravery of people like that makes me feel extremely humble.

  7. Now that's a book I'd to read. Thanks for the interesting review Anne.

  8. Wow!! She sounds one heck of a woman! I will try and get the book - not being a Kindle soul. I hope the money from the book helps her to save more children!


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