Monday 28 August 2023

The Forgotten Home Child

Finished August 25
The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham

This novel is structured as the story of a woman in her nineties, telling her story to her granddaughter and great grandson. The grandmother Winny was a British home child, brought to Canada through Barnardos. As the book opens she has just moved in with her granddaughter Chrissie and her great-grandson Jamie from a seniors home. Prior to that she had lived for years with her daughter Susan who died. One of the things that Winny brought with her was the small wooden trunk she brought with her from England, and that started the conversation that she gradually has with her family. 
Winny's family came to London from Ireland when she was young, and consisted of her, four younger brothers, and her parents. When her father died in an accident, her mother struggled, and Winny found herself unable to stay with the family when her mother took on another man. 
Struggling on the streets of London, she was befriended by Mary another girl her age and became part of a small group of children who resorted to theft to feed themselves. When the children are caught, Winny and Mary eventually find themselves in Barkingside Girls' Village, a Barnardo facility where the girls are taught useful skills so they can find gainful employment. While there, Winny befriended another young girl, Charlotte who had been left there by her mother until she could get her feet on the ground. The boys, Jack (Mary's brother), and brothers Edward and Colin were taken elsewhere and we discover what happened to them as the novel unfolds. 
Like many children in England at that time, they became one of the many sent overseas to Canada. Some children were welcomed into homes, but many were indentured servants and many of those led hard lives under sometimes abusive masters. 
Winny was made to feel ashamed of her origins as a home child, and thus never revealed this part of her past to her family until now. 
Graham has done a lot of research for this novel, and all of the experiences the children in her book have are real experiences that home children had. By personifying this experience, Graham brings history to life for her readers. 
I was totally caught up in the story, needing to know what happened to each of the children, and understand the repercussions of their experiences. 
An enlightening and entertaining read. 

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