Title: The Forgotten Home Child
Author: Genevieve Graham
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Format: Paperback, Ebook
Release Date: March 3, 2020
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.
I loved this historical fiction novel!
The story follows Winny and Jack throughout two time periods. The first is set in the present, where Winny is telling her story to her granddaughter. The other time period is when Winny and Jack were sent to Canada from England as teenagers in the 1930s. Winny and Jack, along with some other friends, get separated into different homes and have to face some difficult times.
It’s unfortunate that we aren’t taught this part of Canada’s history in school. An estimated 12% of the Canadian population are descendants of the British home children. I recently found out that my own great-great-grandmother was one of them, though she came to Canada in the late 19th century, before this book is set. In the book, Winny’s great-grandson wonders why we aren’t taught about this in school. We aren’t taught much history in school, but this is an important part we should all learn.
This story was heartbreaking at times, but those scenes were quickly followed by optimism. I really enjoyed this story!
Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What to read next:
Come From Away by Genevieve Graham
The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick
Have you read The Forgotten Home Child? What did you think of it?