12 Dec The Orphanage Girls Reunited by Mary Wood
A gritty and gripping saga
Mary Wood never pulls her punches in her historical sagas – she knows life for many women was brutal, especially poor ones, and that even the well-to-do were often powerless in the face of a patriarachal society, well into the 20th century.
The first book in this trilogy, The Orphanage Girls, explored the fate of three young girls, Ellen, Ruth and Amy, bonded together by their harsh experience in an Edwardian orphanage in London.
This book picks up on that story, but is an easy stand-alone read, with the background filled in through the narrative so that a new reader will quickly pick up the threads.
This story concentrates on 11-year-old Ellen, who, having been consigned to the orphanage by her father, is abruptly removed by him and sent to live with her grandmother near Leeds.
The illegitimate child is confused and forlorn – why doesn’t her father love her? When she learns that her mother is a prostitute and that together she and her father have at least one other child, a young son, she is determined to track them down.
But for the moment she settles in Leeds, cared for and loved by her grandmother and housekeeper Dilly.
But her troubles aren’t over. There’s a cruel governess to deal with, and then a dreadful act of violence that recalls all the wicked abuse she suffered in the orphanage.
Despite her youth, Ellen must draw on all her strength and resources to overcome the trauma of the past.
As the years go on, she is reunited with Ruth, and the two forge fresh adventures on the battlefields of Flanders.
But they never forget Amy, sent off to Canada – the orphanage girls will never be fully reunited unless they can track her down.
This was not altogether an easy read. Some themes, while gritty and powerful, are also distressing, with episodes of physical and sexual abuse, both recalled from the past and in the present narrative.
It leads to upsetting scenes of the traumatic effect it has on Ellen – her panic attacks are vividly described, and all too realistic.
But these scenes are very necessary to the story, giving the reader an opportunity to learn about the infancy of talking therapy for people with mental health problems.
Finding the emotional support she needs enables Ellen to rise above her past, and to begin to learn to trust again.
Themes of loneliness and abandonment pervade Ellen’s earlier story in the first few chapters, but as she grows stronger, the happier themes of family, friendship and romance come into their own, and this becomes an inspiring read.
There’s still tragedy to come, but as Ellen grows in strength and spirit, you just know that she’ll cope with what life throws at her.
The story completes satisfactorily, but there are a couple of tantalising threads from the very beginning of the series to be resolved in the third book.
I can’t wait to read it!
The Orphanage Girls Reunited by Mary Wood is published by Pan Macmillan in paperback and ebook
About the Author
Born the thirteenth child of fifteen to a middle-class mother and an East End barrow boy, Mary Wood’s childhood was a mixture of love and poverty. Throughout her life Mary has held various posts in office roles, working in the Probation services and bringing up her four children and numerous grandchildren, step-grandchildren and great-grandchildren. An avid reader, she first put pen to paper in 1989 whilst nursing her mother through her last months, but didn’t become successful until she began self-publishing her novels in 2011.
Her novels include All I Have to Give, An Unbreakable Bond, In Their Mother’s Footsteps and The Breckton Novels.