Author Julia Kelly takes us on a journey to Liverpool in 1935, where we meet 18-year-old Viv Byrne, who was raised in a strict Catholic home. She finds herself in a difficult situation when she becomes pregnant after a one-night stand with a Jewish saxophonist Joshua Levinson.
To avoid the shame of being an unwed mother, Viv and Joshua hastily tie the knot. But Viv’s overbearing mother offers Joshua a large amount of money to disappear on their wedding day, knowing the child will now be born in wedlock. He agrees and heads off to New York City to chase his dreams of jazz stardom.
Five years later, Viv has to choose whether to evacuate her daughter, Maggie, to the countryside to protect her from German bombs. Over the course of three days, 1.5 million people, including 800,000 children, were evacuated from British towns and cities in Operation Pied Piper.
Tragedy strikes when Maggie’s host family’s house is bombed, while Joshua, who gave up his musical aspirations, returns home to serve in the Royal Air Force. The story revolves around Viv and Joshua’s efforts to reunite and find out what happened to their daughter.
The Lost English Girl is told from the alternating perspectives of Viv, Joshua, and Maggie. The author’s commitment to historical accuracy is clear through her portrayal of child evacuations and the stigma surrounding teenage pregnancy and interfaith marriages.
I supplemented the book with audio, but the male narrator didn’t quite hit the mark. The book deserves a 4-star rating for its well-drawn characters and historical depth.
** I received a free copy of The Lost English Girl, by Julia Kelly, from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.