Friday, April 7, 2023

The Lost English Girl by Julia Kelly

The acclaimed author of The Light Over London weaves an epic saga of love, motherhood, and betrayal from World War II to the 1960s.

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 eighteen. 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.

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
First published March 7, 2023
March 7, 2023 by Gallery Books
4/5 stars

This story begins in 1935 as Viv prepares to get married.  She was raised in a strict Catholic household and has defied her parents' belief by marrying outside of their circle to avoid bringing shame upon the family.  Fast forward 5 years and Viv is a single mom raising her almost 5-year-old daughter Maggie.

Set in Liverpool, a city that is not immune to the war and Operation Pied Piper.  Viv goes against her better judgement and evacuates her daughter to the countryside to live with a well-to-do family.

As the title suggest, The Lost English Girl is a story of separation caused not only by the war but also poor decision making.  Told from Viv's point of view, the emotional impact of her separation from her child, parents and dealing with Maggie's foster mother is explored.  Viv second-guesses her decision all the time, especially as the bombs fall with destructive force. 

 The other perspective is from Joshau, Maggie's father.  Although that was interesting I found myself more connected to Viv's storyline.

The Lost English Girl is a story of family dynamics, religion, and standing up for oneself. This lighter historical fiction read was predictable at times but still entertaining.

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