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7 deadly reads

Sitdown Sunday: How girls were coerced into gruelling service for a secretive Catholic group

Settle down in a comfy chair with some of the week’s best longreads.

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked some of the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. Opus Dei

madrid-spain-november-1-2019-the-chapel-of-saint-josemaria-escriva-de-balaguer-in-almudena-cathedral-in-madrid-he-was-the-founder-of-opus-dei Chapel of Saint Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer in Almudena Cathedral in Madrid, the founder of Opus Dei Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

In this article, Antonia Cundy explores the women whose labor has supported the Opus Dei organization for decades.

Opus Dei was designed to help ordinary Catholics become holy through everyday work, but in practice, women gave their lives to the organisation as domestic workers.

By weaving together three women’s stories, Cundy investigates the order. 

(Financial Times, approx 37 mins reading time)

Anne Marie moved towards a wood-panelled door in the corner. Inside, hardly larger than a coat cupboard, was a confessional, a small kneeler facing a lattice screen. Forty-six years earlier, this was where a priest first suggested that Anne Marie join Opus Dei. She was 15 and had come to Ballyglunin to take a catering course. But within a few months, she would commit to years of unpaid domestic service for one of the most powerful organisations in the Catholic Church.

2. The hotel guest who wouldn’t leave

In this article, we follow Mickey Barreto, a man who checked into the New Yorker Hotel for one night, but was able to claim ownership of the entire building using an obscure New York housing law.

But while Barreto’s five-year stay cost him only $200.57, it might now cost him his freedom.

(The New York Times, approx 14 mins reading time)

On a June afternoon in 2018, a man named Mickey Barreto checked into the New Yorker Hotel. He was assigned Room 2565, a double-bed accommodation with a view of Midtown Manhattan almost entirely obscured by an exterior wall. For a one-night stay, he paid $200.57.

But he did not check out the next morning. Instead, he made the once-grand hotel his full-time residence for the next five years, without ever paying another cent.

In a city where every inch of real estate is picked over and priced out, and where affordable apartments are among the rarest of commodities, Mr. Barreto had perhaps the best housing deal in New York City history.

3. Fourteen years of the Tories

foreign-secretary-lord-david-cameron-left-and-prime-minister-rishi-sunak-arrive-for-the-ceremonial-welcome-for-president-of-south-korea-yoon-suk-yeol-and-his-wife-kim-keon-hee-at-horse-guards-pa British Foreign Secretary David Cameron (left) and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

What have fourteen years of Conservative Rule done to the UK?

Living standards have fallen and there is constant political drama.

But reporter Sam Knight warns that the UK can’t move on from the Tories without facing up to the damage that has occurred.

(The New Yorker, approx 43 mins reading time)

In 2010, the Party returned to government in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Since 2015, it has held power alone. Last May, the Tories surpassed the thirteen years and nine days that New Labour had held office. But the third political era of my lifetime has been nothing like the previous two. There has been no dominant figure or overt political project, no Thatcherism, no Blairism. Instead, there has been a quickening, lowering churn: five Prime Ministers, three general elections, two financial emergencies, a once-in-a-century constitutional crisis, and an atmosphere of tired, almost constant drama.

4. ‘Missed connection’

Meet the couples who found love after responding to classified ads in newspapers. But would this way of meeting ‘the one’ ever work in today’s world?

(The Guardian, approx 16 mins reading time)

Scott got the hint and changed the subject. The pair enjoyed the rest of the flight together, but Darcy said goodbye abruptly when they landed – her boyfriend was picking her up from the airport, and in those days the people you were meeting could come right up to the gate. She saw Scott again by the luggage carousel while her boyfriend was busy smoking a cigarette – they shared a look. Then they shared another look. He left and turned back to look at her one last time. For weeks afterwards, Darcy couldn’t believe that she had just let him walk away.

For so many Darcys and Scotts, this is where the story ends, a frisson that fizzles out into a could-have-been. But, after breaking up with her boyfriend, Darcy couldn’t stop talking about “the plane guy”, so her mum told her to place a call-out in a local paper, the Sacramento News & Review. Darcy thought, “Those things never work,” but she did it anyway, addressing an ad to “Scott, Who’s a Foreman”. The person from the paper said it wouldn’t be printed for another week, but a few days later Darcy got a call.

5. How Israel is Starving Gaza

rafah-on-march-21-2024-people-gather-to-get-food-relief-in-the-southern-gaza-strip-city-of-rafah-on-march-21-2024-the-people-of-gaza-are-enduring-catastrophic-levels-of-hunger-and-famine-is-i People gather to get food relief in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, on 21 March, 2024 Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Al Jazeera reporters detail the meals of three families in Gaza over three days, counting their calorie intake.

It highlights the reality of hunger, as the concept of famine becomes more than just a concept.

(Al Jazeera, approx 9 mins reading time)

After having nothing to eat for breakfast or lunch, the family managed to get hold of three tins of fava beans.

Umm Mohammed puts aside two tins, knowing they may not be able to get any food tomorrow.

“What should I do? If I feed them today, how will I feed them tomorrow? I keep thinking, how will I provide them with food for the next day?”

6. If it wasn’t grooming, what is?

Rose Hackman was just 14 when she started seeing 22-year-old Fred.

In this article, Hackman looks at the relationship through her eyes now, as well as those of her younger, more naive, self.

As an adult, it is easy to see coercion. As a vulnerable child, it is not.

(The Guardian, approx 12 mins reading time)

 I look back at the genuinely intelligent man that he was – completing his university thesis in political science, the first in his family to make it to college – and I still don’t get it. What was he thinking?

Perhaps that’s a naive question – a residue, no doubt, of that clever patriarchal conditioning that makes us over-empathize with those who hurt us. Because I do know what he was thinking.

Within weeks, I would introduce him to the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, my favorite. In return, he introduced me to porn – an accelerated initiation presented as a way of curing my ignorance. It was a jarring meeting of scripts.


close-up-of-a-girls-backpack-ready-for-overnight-trip Nancy was able to discover hope and even joy after the loss of her daughter Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Journalism lecturer Nancy Comiskey saw no end in sight to her grief after her daughter’s death.

But in this piece, she details how her and her husband have discovered meaning, hope, and even joy after life’s most terrible loss.

A parent’s lessons on living with grief, 10 years after her daughter died.

(Indianapolis Monthly, approx 26 mins reading time)

On Kate’s first birthday after her death, I wrote her a long letter. I planned to burn it and put the ashes in the stone wall my husband, Steve, was building in her memory at our cottage in Maine. But at the last minute I decided to make a copy. Every birthday since then, I’ve written her another letter, telling her about births and deaths, marriages and breakups, kindnesses and disappointments—but also about everyday things like a new kind of Friendster called Facebook, the YouTube honey badger, and the antics of her little Lab mix, Lola.

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