The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham based upon the author’s research of British Home children, who were sent to Canada with the promise of a better life. They are trusting, innocent and vulnerable. Upon arrival in Canada, they were treated as indentured servants on farms. These young children were despised by both the English and Canadians for no apparent reason. The cruelty that was inflicted on them was appalling. It is hard to imagine that only 100 years ago, children were still considered chattel. The author relates that between 1869 to 1948 that approximately 100,000 to 130,000 destitute children were taken from England’s streets, orphanages and homes, and then shipped across the ocean to work in other countries.
The Forgotten Home Child is a poignant story narrated by Winnie, who is now an old woman. She has lived with the shame of being of a home child all her life and never told her daughter. Now that her daughter is dead, Winnie decides it is time to share her early life story with her granddaughter and great-grandson.
She relates to them that she left home for the London streets with her mother’s blessing at age 10 to escape an abusive step-father. She falls in with a group of other homeless children: Jack and Mary Miller, a brother and sister, and two brothers, Cecil and Edward. The five are very close but the boys are separated from the girls when they are arrested. The girls end up in a home that was started by Dr. Barnado, whose agency was responsible for a large percentage of the children who were sent to Canada. In 1936 the five children, now teenagers, end up on the same boat headed to Canada. The boys manage to stay together, but the girls are placed in different homes. That is the beginning of the neglect and abuse of these children and several others they meet. They were treated as less than human, but four of them were able to survive their indenture. One of Winnie’s friends from the home was lucky to be placed with a loving family. Jack ends up bitter and unable to fully enjoy life for quite a while. Although the boys were treated so poorly, they still proudly served in the Canadian forces during World War II.
This historical fiction story was very educational and thought-provoking. I highly recommend it. 5-stars. It will be released on March 3, 2020, so be sure to put it on your TBR list. Thank you to NetGalley and to the publisher, Simon & Schuster Canada, and Simon & Schuster, Inc. for my advanced reader copy of this wonderful novel.