This was a hard book to read, though I’m very glad I did. The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham chronicles the events and lives of the British Home Children. This organization began as a way to get rid of homeless orphans and what they called “forgotten children”, those with at least one parent living but unable or unwilling to care for them. The scheme was to round them up, send them to orphanages and children’s homes. From there they would be sent to Canada, New Zealand, and Australia where they would become indentured servants until adulthood. Over 100,000 children became part of this scheme from 1869 to 1948, many of them coming to Canada.
A man named Dr. Barnardo began this scheme with very good intentions. He hoped to help these unwanted children by finding them homes in the new lands where they would hopefully thrive. The idea was good on paper. In reality it became a nightmare for thousands of children who found themselves in a distant land that did not want them, being basically sold to people who only wanted them for labor, and totally at the mercy of these folks since there was no monitoring once they were placed.
This book tells the story of a group of these children who came to Canada in 1936. It is told through the eyes of Winny and Jack from the time they were picked up in the streets of London, England to present day. The story is heartbreaking. It will make you cry. You will become enraged, but I believe you will also be comforted to see that many of these kids survived and did manage to overcome the trauma to live fulfilling lives. In spite of the horrors mentioned here, the book is uplifting because it is a story of survival and hope.
The Forgotten Home Child is what I like to call a fictionalized true story. Winny, Jack and their friends are fictional characters, but the events that happened to them in this novel are true. Ms. Graham did an excellent job of researching the British Home Children. She talked to many of the descendants of the actual Home Children, and used the events she was told about in this novel.
Everyone should read this book. Not only is it an excellently written novel, this is a part of our history. The history teacher in me says that we should not let events like these, as dark as they are, fade from our memories. A history forgotten is often a history repeated.
I received an ARC from NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for an honest review.