Continuing my series of mum-investigator mystery books, here is The Forgotten Children by Isabella Muir. I’ve read all her Janie Juke series and absolutely loved them, but this is different. It’s still got her trade-mark gentle tone and steady pace, but the topic is much more personal, and therefore raw.
I confess I had expected more of the story to be based in Australia so was a bit surprised to find the first road trip was to Anglesey, and more time to be spent on the historical aspects, but this is focussed on Emily’s own search and her own feelings. On this level, it works very well, but if you’re expecting something more closely aligned to Empty Cradles by Margaret Humphreys, or the almost identically titled non-fiction The Forgotten Children: Fairbridge Farm School and its betrayal of Britains Child Migrants by David Hill, you might be disappointed. That is just the inspiration for the story, not the plot. To be clear, it’s totally my fault – I should have read the blurb more carefully – I think I was influenced by the outback cover photo.
Anyway, the big issues the story really tackles are the narrow-minded UK attitudes towards unmarried mothers and forced adoption. And the scary bit is, this is set not that long ago. The similarities between Emily and her own mother were a surprise (worded carefully to avoid spoilers). And as additional characters are introduced (particularly Walter and Patrick), the story picks up momentum, and I read it in just a few evenings.
The Forgotten Children isn’t part of a series, but I’m really hoping for a fourth Janie Juke book soon!
A woman’s search to find her son uncovers the shocking truth about one of Britain’s darkest periods
Struggling with the demons of her past, Emily is a children’s author with a dark secret, and a guilt that threatens to consume her. For twenty years she has lived in Brighton, England, trying to forget the day they took her baby from her, just hours after he was born. But now, in the summer of 1987, she decides to begin the search for her son.
Emily takes refuge in a small town on the Isle of Anglesey to plan the search, where she meets Walter, a gentle stranger, who helps her with his words of wisdom and kindness. But it is when she decides to return home to Hastings, that she really has to face her demons.
Estranged from her parents when she was just sixteen, Emily is shocked by what her mother has to tell her about events that occurred before Emily was even born.
Beside her, throughout her search, is Emily’s beautiful Irish friend, Geraldine, recovering from her own sad experiences. Together they uncover a truth that shocks them all.
The Forgotten Children draws the reader into lives affected by narrow-minded beliefs and blinkered thinking at the highest level. Children who weren’t allowed to be born, children who were abandoned, and children who were taken, forced to lead a life thousands of miles away from everyone and everything they knew – leaving scars that may never heal.
At its heart, The Forgotten Childrenis a story of survival, but the journey that Emily has to take is painful. Even more so because she knows it was allowed to happen by individuals, religions and governments, who should have known better.
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Isabella Muir has been surrounded by books her whole life and – after working for twenty years as a technical editor and having successfully completed her MA in Professional Writing – she was inspired to focus on fiction writing.
As well as her newest title, The Forgotten Children, Isabella is the author of the Sussex Crime Mystery series. These Agatha Christie style stories are set in the sixties and seventies and feature a young librarian and amateur sleuth, Janie Juke, who has a passion for Agatha Christie. All that Janie has learned from her hero, Hercule Poirot, she is able to put into action as she sets off to solve a series of crimes and mysteries.
Aside from books, Isabella has a love of all things caravan-like. She has spent many winters caravanning in Europe and now, together with her husband, she runs a small caravan site in Sussex. They are ably assisted by their much-loved Scottie, Hamish.
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