What I Loved:
The Forgotten Home Child was about a historical event that I didn’t know much about. I really enjoy reading about people and situations that are new to me. The children brought from England to Canada have such heartbreaking stories, but I am so glad that I was able to read this beautifully written book.
How I Felt:
The story introduces us to Winnifred Ellis, our 98 year old main character in 2018. Her story is told through present day, 2018, as well as the historical view starting in 1936. Winnifred is moving in with her granddaughter and great-grandson and her granddaughter accidentally knocks a suitcase open, spilling some of its contents. This leads to questions about the suitcase and its contents, and Winny decides it is time to share her secrets with her family.
Winny tells her family about her childhood in England where she lived on the streets, then in an orphanage, and finally, at Dr. Barnardo’s Barkingside Home for Girls. Barnardo’s has contracts with Canada allowing them to bring children from England to Canada to be workers, and Winny and her group of close friends that she considers family have all been chosen. What awaits them will be a mixture of fear, ghastly treatment, and at times, the ability to find joy.
Following Winny on her journey, the story jumps between the present and the past. It was broken up into fairly large sections in the past and then the present, which made the story easy to follow and enjoyable to read. This was written from two perspectives, Winny in both the present and past, as well as Jack’s perspective, one of her friends. It was interesting to see Jack’s story from the past only, and I’m so glad it was included.
Sometimes when a book jumps back and forth between timelines and people, and I find myself connecting with a specific time or person, but in this story, I enjoyed reading every time period and connected with each portion of the story. It was beautiful to read.
The characters felt real and were easy to connect to. I loved the character arc that Winny has. A lot of times, the storyteller that is revealing their history is enlightening others, but in this story, there was a beautiful give and take between Winny and her grandchild, as well as great-grandchild. I loved how they taught each other as the story unfolded.
Overall, this was an absolutely beautiful story. It had heartbreak and loss, but also redemption and happy moments. I was completely enraptured in the characters’ lives and could not put this down.
Child neglect, abuse, abandonment, and death, war injury and death, rape, pregnancy, and suicide.
To Read or Not To Read:
I would recommend The Forgotten Home Child for readers that enjoy an emotional, historical fiction story that is well-researched. Bonus if you are looking for something that is not wholly based in England during WWII.
Where to Find This Book:
The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham is available at these sites.
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.
Just the Facts:
The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Count: 373 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pub Date: March 3, 2020
I was provided an advanced reader’s copy of this book for free. I am leaving my review voluntarily.