Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Review: The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham

The Forgotten Home Child
by Genevieve Graham
Release Date: March 3rd 2020
2020 Simon & Schuster
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-1982128951
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher

4.5 / 5 Stars

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.

My Thoughts
The Forgotten Home Child really hits close to home as many of the events occur in locations close to where I currently live, and I am familiar with some of the current memorials to these children having a friend who works ardently to keep their memory alive in Canadian minds.  This is not an event that is typically taught in Canadian history classes, although I do mention it in mine, so I can see why many people are not familiar with it. It is definitely heartrending hearing the stories of these children and the treatment they received, and I am glad it is getting the attention it so richly deserves.

First of all, I have to give kudos to the author and her meticulous research in this book.  There were approximately 100 000 children shipped to Canada over a hundred year span starting in 1869 between the ages of 3 and 18, children taken off the streets in Great Britain, many of whom had parents still alive, sent to work on farms, expecting better lives than the ones they left behind.  Unfortunately, there was this mistaken belief they were orphans, and with the mentality that existed towards orphan children during this time period, many were treated horribly.  It is estimated that around 75% of these children suffered abuse, sexual assault, and became indentured farm workers.  Many farmers did not fulfill their obligations to send the children to school during the winter.  The stories are heartbreaking.

I thought the author did a fantastic job showing the conditions the children faced through her main characters.  Winny, Jack, and Mary suffered terribly at the hands of their employers.  The book was told in alternating POVs which meshed beautifully together to tell their stories.  To say it was sometimes hard to read is an understatement.  Mary and Winny find themselves living fairly close together as their employers are sisters, but Mary's fate was so much worse than Winny's as at least Winny's employer had a heart, even if she showed it a little late. Watching them struggle and suffer was hard to read about and the abuse was definitely appalling.  

What I found remarkable about this book was the shame that Winny lived with her entire life because she was labelled a Home Child, and the author's ability to portray this through her characters.  I thought the author did a great job showing the consequences of that shame through Jack as he struggled with addiction and anger issues throughout his life; his bitterness definitely affected a big part of his life and was a direct consequence of his experience as a teenager.   

The Forgotten Home Child is a wonderful book about the British Home Children and their plight as they were transported across the Atlantic to live on farms in Canada and other countries. Unfortunately, many were mistreated and abused and this book reflects many aspects of that abuse and the repercussions for these children.  The only thing I found jarring was the situation with Winny's son and what happened as it didn't really ring true to me, especially considering their relationship throughout the years; I just felt like the author was looking for a way to have some type of discord between them and it didn't quite work for me.  This novel is a powerful statement to those children and a history that should never be forgotten.   


  1. Nice review. I know the history of this in regards to Australia, I wasn’t aware children were also shipped to Canada, I’d be curious to read this.

    1. I'm not as familiar with what happened in Australia. If you have any books to recommend about it there, that would be great.

  2. great review. sounds like this is britain's version of slavery
    sherry @ fundinmental

    1. It definitely was. They had good intentions but it certainly got out of hand and couldn't track all the kids, especially with the mentality towards orphans that existed. So tragic!