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The Orphanage: An absolutely heartbreaking and unputdownable historical fiction page-turner (Shilling Grange Children’s Home Book 1) Kindle Edition
Shilling Grange Orphanage, England, 1948. She was their only hope. Now they are hers. A gritty, heartbreaking and unforgettable story of love and hope in the darkest of times.
Clara Newton is the new Housemother of Shilling Grange Orphanage. Many of the children have been bombed out of their homes and left without families, their lives torn apart by the war, just like Clara’s. Devastated by the loss of her fiancé, a brave American pilot, she is just looking for a place to start again.
But the orphans are in desperate need of her help. Funds are short, children cry out in the night, and tearful Rita tells Clara terrible stories about the nuns who previously ran Shilling Grange. Clara cannot bear to see them suffer, but what does she know about how to look after eight little ones?
Clara can’t get anything right, and then she accidentally ruins Rita’s only memento of her mother. Overwhelmed, she wonders if they’d be better off without her. But she’s not completely alone. Living next door is Ivor: ex-Shilling Grange resident, war hero, and handyman with deep brown eyes. He doesn’t trust Clara and she is fiercely independent, but he has a way with the children. And with his support and the help of other locals, Clara begins to find her way.
As she heals from her grief and adjusts to her new life, Clara wonders if she has finally found her home and family among the orphans. Can she find the strength to fight for them when nobody else will? And dare she open her heart to love again?
A heart-wrenching and totally gripping read. Fans of Before We Were Yours, Diney Costeloe and The Orphan Sisters won’t be able to put this book down.
Readers absolutely love The Orphanage:
‘My heart is full! Oh, I adored this book so much!… There were moments of pure joy and the book left me feeling uplifted and with a full heart.’ Motherhood for Slackers ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Exceptional… hits you for six… I am over the moon… brilliantly written and you fall in love… a feel good book that will make you cry… oh my word I loved this.’ Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Wow… this book is outstanding… I couldn't put it down.’ Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘I took to all the children with all my heart, such an emotional tale… full of love, compassion and humour… a truly remarkable touching story.’ Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Absolutely loved this… I could hardly bear to finish it... Highly recommend!’ Jill Mansell ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘It took me about two pages to fall in love with Clara… this book just kept me wanting to know more.’ Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘This book warmed my heart… Each character is so very special. You will laugh at their childish pranks, their little escapades and cheer at their successes… A delightful, heart-warming story.’ Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘All I can say is I can’t wait for book 2, I'm dying to know what happens next. The writing is gripping… As a child survivor of children’s homes I wish we had had a Clara!’ Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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- ASIN : B093X27P2W
- Publisher : Bookouture (27 August 2021)
- Language : English
- File size : 1721 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 402 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 1,323 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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I love historical fiction and while I wasn't as enamoured with a previous book I'd read by this author, I really enjoyed THE ORPHANAGE. So much so that where it left off I am now eagerly awaiting book two. It is a heartwarming tale centred around the Shilling Grange Children's Home situated in Lavenham, Suffolk, and the children, and their housemother, therein.
The story begins with Clara Newton, having succeeded with her interview, arriving at Shilling Grange to begin her role as the new housemother. She is greeted by the sullen Sister Eunice who, without a word, leads her to her room and disappears. Clara is unsure what to do as she was counting on the nun showing her the ropes but Sister Eunice wasn't forthcoming leaving Clara seeking her out for answers. She asked for paperwork on the children only to learn that there was none. Clara, having come from an administrative background, thrived on files and paperwork where everything was noted down and kept record of. The children's home didn't appear to keep such records.
However, she soon learnt that the children were at school and would return for lunch before returning to complete the school day. But having arrived at 9am, Clara had been prepared to begin her day but was left without much to do until the children returned. And when they did, they filed in quietly even if somewhat morosely and took their places at the table after serving the prepared lunch. Sister Eunice barrelled in from nowhere, taking the head of the table, leaving Clara without a place. When Clara tried introducing herself saying how much she was looking forward to getting to know them all, Sister Eunice thundered "We eat in silence!" Clara decided that handover should take place after the children set off to complete their school day, but no sooner had they left than Sister Eunice came trudging down the stairs suitcase in hand and bidding her farewell. Her job her was done. Any lasting advice? Whip them, says the nun.
Clara is left horrified. What is she to do? She has no experience with children nor running a children's home and given as there were no records on the them, how was she to familiarise herself with her charges? Clara began to wonder if she had made a grave mistake coming here...which was only confirmed when the children returned home at the end of the day. They filed in, silent as church mice and as equally despondent, and set about completing their tasks of washing out their socks and lining them out to dry, polishing their shoes, peeling the vegetables for the following day's meal. They were like a well-oiled machine but a silent and saddened one. Clara watched them and her heart went out to them. As they took their places around the table for a meal consisting of crackers, she tried to engage them in conversation. But they remained silent.
Clara soon discovered there were eight children - four boys and four girls of varying ages. The eldest Maureen was a feisty surly teenager and one of the youngest sweet little Peg uttered not a word...ever. Rita's first words to Clara were "Do you know my mama?" Terry was actually a girl but looked like a boy and refused to be called Teresa. Wild twins Billy and Barry were mischievous pranksters. Alex was an incredibly bright young man with an interest in science and history. And then there was Peter...with whom she felt most endeared...who was quiet but helpful. But Clara soon realised she was not equipped to deal with eight children, who had seen such heartache in their short little lives. Many of them had been orphaned during the war, the lives torn apart, whilst others had simply been abandoned. And while they desperately needed her help, Clara felt she wasn't the best person for the job and packed her bags on the first night.
But then something miraculous happened. There were no trains back to London till the following afternoon so she stayed...and found herself warmed by the resilience of these unwanted children. The shame of the village often referred to as feral and would be much better placed in Ipswich or Clacton rather than their quiet peaceful Lavenham. The more the villagers shunned the children, the more Clara stood up for them. Someone had to be their voice.
And then there was Ivor. He lived beside the home where he upholstered, mended, knitted, sewed as well as looking out for the children he once had been. Theirs was an awkward friendship as he appeared to mistrust Clara's intentions and whether she was there for the long term. But the children adored him. Slowly Ivor watched the children begin to blossom under Clara's care...shedding their silent and sullen despondency for the happy and smiling faces he now saw. But would it last? Would Clara?
Then Clara met Julian, local solicitor, fiftyish and twice her age. He wooed her and still grieving the loss of her fiance Michael in the war four years before, Clara was grateful for the friendship which soon grew into something more. They enjoyed Sundays at nearby country pubs, picnics and outings as he seemingly cared a great deal for her. But he was indifferent to the children. He even dismissed them. But Clara knew that would change once he got to know them. And then he asked her to marry him. Would he expect her to give up her job at Shilling Grange upon their marriage?
Meanwhile, Clara was juggling the various issues of each of the children. Maureen was rebelling, inviting boys into her room (which she shared with the other three girls), smoking and staying out late. Until one day she didn't come back at all. Peter began to withdraw and even became aggressive on occasion. Adoptions for some of the children had fallen through whilst the promise of other ones loomed near. Some days Clara felt she was battling alone for no one else understood the childrens' plights as she did...not even the council who just ticked them off as numbers despite claiming that they only wanted what was best for the children.
And then when Clara stands up for one of the children against a living relative who has offered to adopt them, she finds herself up before a tribunal with a number of complaints against her and her ability to look after the children she has grown so fond of. But she even more shocked to discover who has spoken out against her with malicious lies. Will Clara be able to convince the tribunal of her ability to care for the well-being of the children and keep her job as housemother?
Through the trials and triumphs the reader will get to know each of the children that live at Shilling Grange. Each character is special in their own ways bringing with them their strengths and personalities. You will laugh as well as cry alongside them. The pranks at the hands of Billy and Barry will make you laugh and Rita's constant mantra of "Do you know my mama?" will break your heart...although admittedly, that did wear a bit thin with me after a while. You could almost picture life within the orphanage, both inside and outside, as the children thrived under Clara's care.
You'll get to know Ivor, who himself had grown up at Shilling Grange, as a good friend to the children even if he mistrusted Clara and her intentions. You will also meet other members of the village who each play a part - Mr and Mrs Garrad and their dog Bertie as well as Dr Cardew and his wife Anita, who was a survivor of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. There is also Clara's best friend Judy who lives in London with her husband Arthur. And of course Julian, who I couldn't stand from the first moment he traipsed across the page. There was something "off" about him that I couldn't put my finger on but I didn't like nor trust him. Each of these characters play a pivotal role in this touching read.
THE ORPHANAGE is an emotional story centred around Clara and the children of Shilling Grange. And whilst she found it challenging, Clara always did her best for the children. It is interesting to note that although Julian is her love interest, it is Ivor she calls on for help at times to help keep the children safe. There were times I could have slapped Clara for her naivety and sometimes stupid choices (especially where Julian was concerned). I'm not sure why she applied for a position for which she was not equipped and then finding she had to cope all by herself. I'm not surprised she scarpered at the first hurdle because she certainly wasn't trained or qualified to deal with eight children. But then she began working out her notice and discovered that these children needed her, whether she was trained or not.
A feel-good read that is sure to make you cry, THE ORPHANAGE is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. I was a little disappointed in the ending as I felt it could have provided a little more closure even though there is more to come in a second book. I would have preferred it to end on a different note...although the "Afterword" is a beautiful touch.
I really enjoyed THE ORPHANAGE and cannot wait for book two. It is well written and completely enjoyable. Perfect for fans of Shirley Dickson and those of historical fiction, particularly those about children.
Clara is a young woman who is in dire need of a job and a change of scenery, after losing her fiance and with neglect issues surrounding her father. It is 1948 in the UK, and the country is still reeling after years of war. Rationing continues and there are many shell-shocked veterans adjusting to life as well as scores of orphans and other children who have no safe home. Enter Clara, as the new housemother of a children's home. The eight children are all traumatised in one way or another and Clara is far from perfect herself, so this leads to a variety of situations that need to be tackled.
The good bits: the orphans. The backgrounds of the children are gradually revealed and it shocks me not at all that these vulnerable children were then further taken advantage of by the people entrusted with their care. I love that this book is based on the huge change in the law that finally protected those children.
The not-so-good bits: the book is written in a bit of a flippant style, and there are some terrible things that occur that Clara pretty much shrugs her shoulders about and carries on. There ARE things that you shouldn't tolerate, no matter what. I also thought that Clara's approach to some things was a little too modern for the era in which the book was set. There is some romance in the book but I am just not feeling it very much. It is like most of the book was set on the surface, not a lot of depth. Hard to explain.
Was 3 stars but increased to 4 because of the final third of the book, which was really good.
Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture.
Top reviews from other countries
Becoming a housemother to a group of orphans in Suffolk with no experience whatsoever would have been tricky enough, but Clara is also still recovering from personal heartbreak and her own difficult upbringing. Never shying away from difficult topics, this book taught me a lot about the experiences of children in post war Britain. At the same time, there were moments of pure joy and the book left me feeling uplifted and with a full heart. Lizzie writes children so well and I wanted to adopt each and every one of them.
I cannot WAIT to get my hands on the next book in this series and find out what the future holds for the residents of Shilling Grange.