REVIEWED BY BARBARA BEATON
When a mother and daughter are torn apart by war, their lives change forever…
On the island of Guernsey, in the 1920s, Julia’s fiancé is killed in a fishing accident, leaving her pregnant and having to face single motherhood and the disapproval of the community. She gives birth to a daughter, Clara, and the two make a happy life together.
Then in 1940 the Germans are about to invade the island, and Clara is evacuated to the mainland, forced to leave her mother behind. When she arrives in Blackpool, she is housed with cruel shopkeeper, Miss Brandon, who treats her like a dog. She is rescued by a new friend, only to land in the hands of the madam of a brothel, and treatment that nearly crushes her spirits.
Meanwhile, Julia heads to London to try to track down her daughter, but is thwarted at every turn. With no idea where Clara is, and the trials of war keeping them apart, will they ever be reunited?
This may be set during WWII but this is no cosy nostalgia trip! While not graphic in description, this story does deal with themes of social ostracising of unmarried mothers, cruel treatment of children, underage forced prostitution, gang warfare, and torture of prisoners of war. The author pulls no punches about what happens to Clara, a young and innocent fourteen-year-old when she leaves Guernsey, who grows up very, very quickly as a result of her experiences.
While it’s not a surprise that Clara and Julia eventually find each other, the author does justice to the fact that war has changed them both so much that that they are no longer the people they were back on Guernsey. They must come to terms with that fact and re-build their relationship as the women they now are. After what Clara has been through, she truly deserves her happy ending!