The Lost English Girl
By: Julia Kelly
Narrators: Danielle Cohen,
Simon & Schuster Audio
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: 03/07/2023
My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)
The acclaimed author of the “sweeping and beautifully written novel” (Woman’s World) The Light Over London weaves an epic saga of love, motherhood, and betrayal set against World War II.
Liverpool, 1935: Raised in a strict Catholic family, Viv Byrne knows what’s expected of her: marry a Catholic man from her working-class neighborhood and have his children. However, when she finds herself pregnant after a fling with Joshua Levinson, a Jewish man with dreams of becoming a famous Jazz musician, Viv knows that a swift wedding is the only answer. Her only solace is that marrying Joshua will mean escaping her strict mother’s scrutiny. But when Joshua makes a life-changing choice on their wedding day, Viv is forced once again into the arms of her disapproving family.
Five years later and on the eve of World War II, Viv is faced with the impossible choice to evacuate her young daughter, Maggie, to the countryside estate of the affluent Thompson family. In New York City, Joshua gives up his failing musical career to serve in the Royal Air Force, fight for his country, and try to piece together his feelings about the family, wife, and daughter he left behind at nineteen. However, tragedy strikes when Viv learns that the countryside safe haven she sent her daughter to wasn’t immune from the horrors of war. It is only years later, with Joshua’s help, that Viv learns the secrets of their shared past and what it will take to put a family back together again.
Telling the harrowing story of England’s many evacuated children, bestselling author Julia Kelly’s The Lost English Girl explores how one simple choice can change the course of a life, and what we are willing to forgive to find a way back to the ones we love and thought lost.
Julia Kelly's latest masterpiece, THE LOST ENGLISH GIRL, is mesmerizing and captivating.
A spellbinding tale of betrayal, hope, and perseverance infused with jazz tunes set during the backdrop of WWII. Hauntingly beautiful— the novel grabs you from the front cover, page one, to the satisfying conclusion.
"I LOVED this book!"
A thought-provoking tale based loosely on the author's family history and actual historical events, THE LOST ENGLISH GIRL will leave you with a greater empathy and understanding of the lives of those who have come before us.
Set in Liverpool in the 1930s during WWII, we meet two young teens. Vivian, Catholic, and Joshua, Jewish. Both desire to escape their environment for bigger dreams.
Vivian (Viv) finds herself pregnant. Joshua agrees to marry her. They barely know one another. She has no support from her family. They are shamed. Her mother reminds her she is like Viv's aunt Flora, the family cautionary tale.
However, Viv's strict Catholic mother (despicable woman) is more concerned about what people say than her daughter's happiness and a spineless father. The mom forces her to marry and then pays Joshua, an inspiring jazz musician, to leave the country and move to New York.
They part ways, and Viv is stuck living a nightmare with her horrible mom and dad, everyone shuns her, and she loses her job. She is practically a slave to her mom. Her sister Kate is some help but again goes along with the mom and betrays her.
Viv has a beautiful daughter, Maggie, but her mom has nothing to do with her. Her mom is verbally abusive, and Viv is trapped.
She wants to get away so badly and build a life for herself and her daughter, Maggie (Little Bear), but financially she can't.
Then Operation Pied Piper, which began in the fall of 1939, relocated (evacuated) children to the countryside due to the war (bombs and air raids). Viv does not want to send her daughter away and fights it.
But her mom forces her, and Father Monaghan (I disliked this man) arranges a private foster home that is relatively affluent at Beam Cottage.
Viv is heartbroken to leave her young daughter. Torn with each visit and letter. She worries about Mr. and Mrs. Thompson (the hosts-wretched woman), who thinks Maggie (Margaret) is theirs, giving her everything money can buy. Viv is concerned and worried and writes letters and visits as often as possible.
Mrs. Thompson uses her wealth, possessions, clothes, riding lessons, tea parties, a fine home, room, toys, and other tactics to gain Maggie's love and disrespects Viv.
Due to the war and men going to serve, Viv lands a job at the postal service as a mail carrier. Her in-laws are on her route. Anne and Seth and their daughter Rebecca (Joshua's family). Viv did not think they wanted anything to do with her daughter, but she learned her letter was kept from them.
I loved Joshua's parents! —when her own parents are cold, unsupportive, and uncaring. They take her under their wings with full support with a strong bond.
She finally gets away from her hateful parents and rents a room in a home with a lovely lady.
In the meantime, Joshua learns of the war, enlists in the RAF, and returns to England.
Meanwhile, the countryside where Maggie lives is unsafe, and the hosts' house is bombed. Are they dead?
Through the help of Joshua, his connections, and his parent's support, Joshua and Viv are frantic to find out what happened to Maggie once a clue surfaces and a betrayal that Maggie may still be alive five years later.
Deeply evocative, Maggie and Vivian will grab you by the heartstrings from heartbreak to hope. Vivian is the heroine in this beautifully written tragedy blended with loss and love. She is courageous and will fight to the bitter end to get her daughter back.
Topics: classism, racism, privilege, greed, pregnant teens, religion, parents separated from children, war.
Perfectly paced and bittersweet, this is a heartrending, captivating tale of survival against all odds. The strong bonds of mother-daughter, family, first love, motherhood, and fate will sweep you away.
In chapters alternating from Viv's, Joshua's, and Maggie's POV, the author cleverly unravels her characters' deepest secrets and emotions.
Meticulously researched and beautifully written, the author provides a wealth of information in her Author's Note, her family history, and inspiration for the novel:
Details on Religion in Liverpool,
Evacuations during WWII,
and the Cost of Those Returning Home.
The aftermath of those sent away during evacuation and how they coped mentally (both children and parents).
Viv and Maggie will steal your heart, and you will need some Kleenex when reading. I enjoyed seeing Joshua step up to the plate as a father and adore his family.
If you enjoyed this story, I recommend Patti Callahan Henry's The Secret Book of Flora Lea (May 2, 2023) about the Pied Piper evacuation, two sisters sent away to the countryside. One goes missing for years, and a courageous sister is determined to find her.
These two books are five stars and on my Top Books of 2023.
@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks
Pub Date: March 7, 2023
My Rating: 5 💙Stars ++
“Readers will fall in love with unassuming Viv in particular; when faced with heartbreaking events, she exhibits incredible courage. This will hook readers from the first page." —Publishers Weekly starred review
“A fascinating novel about a woman’s struggle with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, her parents’ harsh treatment of both mother and child, and the separation from her child under the threat of an imminent war.”
“Well-paced, highly emotional… an excellent read with a satisfying ending.”
—Historical Novels Review
About the Author
Julia Kelly is the award-winning author of books about ordinary women and their extraordinary stories. In addition to writing, she’s been an Emmy-nominated producer, journalist, marketing professional, and (for one summer) a tea waitress. Julia called Los Angeles, Iowa, and New York City home before settling in London.
Readers can visit JuliaKellyWrites.com to learn more about all of her books and sign up for her newsletter so they never miss a new release.