by Genevieve Graham
Genres: Historical Fiction
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The Home for Unwanted Girls meets Orphan Train in this unforgettable novel about a young girl caught in a scheme to rid England’s streets of destitute children, and the lengths she will go to find her way home—based on the true story of the British Home Children.
At ninety-seven years old, Winnifred Ellis knows she doesn’t have much time left, and it is almost a relief to realize that once she is gone, the truth about her shameful past will die with her. But when her great-grandson Jamie, the spitting image of her dear late husband, asks about his family tree, Winnifred can’t lie any longer, even if it means breaking a promise she made so long ago...
Fifteen-year-old Winny has never known a real home. After running away from an abusive stepfather, she falls in with Mary, Jack, and their ragtag group of friends roaming the streets of Liverpool. When the children are caught stealing food, Winny and Mary are left in Dr. Barnardo’s Barkingside Home for Girls, a local home for orphans and forgotten children found in the city’s slums. At Barkingside, Winny learns she will soon join other boys and girls in a faraway place called Canada, where families and better lives await them.
But Winny’s hopes are dashed when she is separated from her friends and sent to live with a family that has no use for another daughter. Instead, they have paid for an indentured servant to work on their farm. Faced with this harsh new reality, Winny clings to the belief that she will someday find her friends again.
Inspired by true events, The Forgotten Home Child is a moving and heartbreaking novel about place, belonging, and family—the one we make for ourselves and its enduring power to draw us home.
The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham is a riveting fictional tale that shines light on the British Home Children who arrived in Canada. Grab a box of tissues, a glass of wine and your readers’ group as Graham delivers an unforgettable tale.
Graham never disappoints and while I am not Canadian, I love history and appreciate fictional tales based historical events that shed light on humanities past.
The tale is told both in the present and in the past from the same point of view, as ninety-seven-year-old, Winnifred Ellis moves in with her granddaughter and great-grandson in 2018. A suitcase filled with old-things soon has her sharing a story neither she nor her husband shared. Not even with their own children. The past takes us back to 1936 and the streets of London as Winny, and many other children who fled Ireland with their families struggle in Liverpool. Winny and her street friends Jack and Mary Miller and two brothers, Cecil and Edward steal to survive. The child are arrested for shoplifting and the girls end up at Dr. Barnado’s Home for Children.
Eventually, all of them board ships to Canada. There they will work for families until they turn eighteen and receive funds when they are twenty-one. A chance for a new start. But the friends and siblings are separated, and not all the homes are welcoming. Winnifred retells what happened to her, Mary and Charlotte, a girl they met at the home. We are also given Jack’s point of view as we learn what happens to the boys.
Graham delivered a rich tale that covered a wide range of the circumstances these children faced. Some moments will make you smile, and others will bring tears to your eyes as you wonder at the cruelty they endured. I wept just seeing these children pulled from their friends and siblings. Not knowing where their brother or sister was. Hadn’t they lost enough. While I think the intentions of these programs were good, it sadden me to see its failures.
As always, I loved the characters. Winny, brave Winny and Jack who shouldered the blame. I felt such emotions for the children we encountered, lost and discovered. Of course, Graham wove in happy moments, reunions and did Winny justice, but not at the sacrifice of sharing the Forgotten Home Child.
In the back, Graham shares her research, provides information and links. As so often happens when I read her books, found myself explore Google and my library for more information.
An unforgettable tale with characters and stories that will stay with you long after you close the book. The Forgotten Home Child is a must read for fans of historical fiction and the perfect book club read.The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham is a #mustread for fans of historical fiction #BookClub #historicalfiction Click To Tweet