Monday 28 September 2020

Book Review ~ The Lost Blackbird by Liza Perrat


London 1962. A strict and loveless English children’s home, or the promise of Australian sunshine, sandy beaches and eating fruit straight from the tree. Which would you choose?

Ten-year-old Lucy Rivers and her five-year-old sister Charly are thrilled when a child migrant scheme offers them the chance to escape their miserable past. But on arrival in Sydney, the girls discover their fantasy future is more nightmare than dream. Lucy’s lot is near-slavery at Seabreeze Farm where living conditions are inhuman, the flies and heat unbearable and the owner a sadistic bully. What must she do to survive? Meanwhile Charly, adopted by the nurturing and privileged Ashwood family, gradually senses that her new parents are hiding something. When the truth emerges, the whole family crumbles. Can Charly recover from this bittersweet deception?

Will the sisters, stranded miles apart in a strange country, ever find each other again?

A poignant testament to child migrants who suffered unforgivable evil, The Lost Blackbird explores the power of family bonds and our desire to know who we are.

What did I think about it..

The Lost Blackbird is about a lost generation and the shameful story of children, often without permission, being transported to Australia. This is not the same as the convict transportation which took place in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but was the rather ambiguous promise of a better future for those children who were often the innocent victims of the British care system of the 1960s.  With the promise of better prospects, hundreds of child migrants left England bound for new homes, new families and, even, new parents.

In The Lost Blackbird we follow the story of two such children, Lucy and Charly Rivers who are placed in care when their home situation alters dramatically. With no say whatsoever in their future, both girls find that their life, as they know it, in England, is over, and whilst the six week sea voyage to Australia on board, The Star of New South Wales, is filled with excitement, the reality of their arrival in this strange country is far from perfect.

This is is a fascinating look at two very different lives, the younger child, Charly, given in adoption to new parents who only want what's best for themselves, whilst the older girl, Lucy, is treated abominably on a remote farm with other migrant children and is subjected to a life which amounts to little more than slavery.

The author writes well about this shameful period in British and Australian history and whilst I had heard a little about the child migrant scheme I didn't know the full extent of the horror some of the children faced when they arrived in this new land of promise. Part of the story broke my heart to learn that children could be treated so badly and whilst The Lost Blackbird shows both sides of the 'adoption' process there was little doubt as to the psychological damage that was being inflicted on children who only needed love and care, and yet were forcibly removed from everything that was familiar to them.

Beautifully written by an author who knows how to get right into the heart of a story, I read The Lost Blackbird, often with tears in my eyes, appalled at the wanton cruelty, and so often, hoping against hope that something would help to change the circumstances, not just for Lucy and Charly Rivers, but also for all those other innocent young lives who were being so cruelly exploited.

The Lost Blackbird takes us on a journey of false promises, danger, degradation and loss and yet, there's also a glimmer of hope which I clung to throughout the whole of this powerful story.

About the Author

Liza grew up in Australia, working as a general nurse and midwife. She has now been living in France for twenty-seven years, where she works as a part-time medical translator and a novelist. 

She is the author of the French historical The Bone Angel series. The first book in Liza’s Australian series, The Silent Kookaburra is a domestic noir, psychological suspense set in 1970s Australia.  The second in the series, The Swooping Magpie is currently under revision. 


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