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Follow the Author
Orphans of War Paperback – 20 October 2008
Praise for Leah Fleming:
‘A beautiful, almost poetically-written tale of love and tragedy in the Yorkshire Dales mainly set during the Second World War. The characters are real flesh and blood and the reader shares their ups and downs with genuine empathy.’
Maureen Lee, bestselling author of Mother of Pearl.
‘An epic tale of hardship and tragedy straddling the Second World War.’
‘A touching tale.’
‘An absolute joy to read , full of warmth, and colour and hope.’
‘A good read to curl up with.’
About the Author
Leah Fleming was born in Lancashire of Scottish parents, and is married with four grown-up children and five grandchildren. She usually writes full-time from a haunted farmhouse in the Yorkshire Dales but is currently taking a gap year for grown-ups and living on the slopes of an olive grove in Crete.
- Publisher : Avon (20 October 2008)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 624 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1847560237
- ISBN-13 : 978-1847560230
- Dimensions : 11.1 x 4 x 17.8 cm
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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While it is a dual timeline story, only the the prologue and epilogue take place at the turn of the millennium, with the rest of the story set between 1940 and 1957.
1940: Madeline Belfield lives with her maternal family, uncle George and Granny Mills, in Chadley on the outskirts of Liverpool and loves nothing more than running through the fields with her dog Bertie. But when an air raid blitzes the city whilst she is out grabbing fish and chips for supper, Maddy finds herself pushed into the public shelter by the AR warden...but all she can think about is Bertie and that he is safe. When the all-clear sounds the next morning, Maddy exits the shelter to be greeted by mass devastation. She runs home to the Feathers Inn, where she lives with her uncle and Granny, but it is gone...decimated by the German's bombs. Frantic for Bertie she spends the next few days calling for him amongst the rubble, but she must resign herself to the fact that her only friend has gone.
Maddy now finds herself alone with no one to care for her. Her parents are the famous "Bellaires" duo - Arthur and Dolly Belfield - travelling and performing for troops so Maddy was left in the care of her mother's brother and mother. She knows nothing of her father's family, believing there to be no one. But whens she receives a telegram from who appears to be her father's mother, Maddy is sent off to West Yorkshire to live with them. Her parents will set sail from Cape Town as soon as possible to arrive back by Christmas and be reunited with their daughter.
Along the way she meets Gloria and Sid Conley, who are shoved rather unceremoniously on the train by their mother...with a letter in Gloria's coat pocket for whoever is to take charge of the two children. The children are frightened by this turn of events and crowded train of strangers, and they cling to Maddy for dear life, refusing to let go even when they reach Leeds, where Maddy is to meet her aunt.
Prunella Belfield (Plum) is Maddy's aunt and is at the station to meet the evacuees along with Maddy to take back to Sotherthwaite. The evacuees are her new charges to reside in the Old Vic, a hostel on the edge of the Belfield estate. Maddy is to reside in Brooklyn Hall. Plum sends Greg, the oldest of her charges off to find Maddy and he returns with not one but three children. Maddy explains the situation in which Gloria and Sid came to be in her company and how she has promised that they will take care of them.
And so begins the adventures of the "vaccies".
Throughout the years, we see them grow and follow their various adventures through life...until the end of the war sees only a couple remain. Whilst the premise billed the story of the evacuees, it is really only follows two of them alongside Maddy. We are taken through the war and their coming of age, as we watch Maddy and Gloria grow as forever friends and Greg become a young man, a far cry from the troublesome lad he had always been seen as. But adulthood brings a whole new set of challenges which will fill us with a range of emotions - from grief to anger to love to heartbreak - as the story moves into a new decade.
Although titled ORPHANS OF WAR, I felt it would have been more aptly named as THE VICTORY TREE. The war plays just a small part of the story but "the Victory tree", named for a previous war and for its V shaped trunk, which stands behind the old hostel on the edge of the Belfield estate plays a far greater part. It is the headquarters of their childhood games and later the home of a dark secret. For Maddy, it is also a place of solace. The story begins with the tree, grows with the tree and ends with the tree. So I believe THE VICTORY TREE would have been a far more significant title.
The story had a wonderful array of characters that were both irritating and interesting. I really liked Maddy and identified with her, if only for her "Panda" as I had one I grew up with also and still have to this day. She is the predominantly the main character with Plum, Granny Belfield, Greg, Gloria, the Battys and the like all supporting characters. A really disliked Gloria, even as a child, and as she grew I disliked her even more. She is a selfish, jealous, self-centred cow and Maddy was better off with an enemy than Gloria as a friend. She coveted everything Maddy had and she still wasn't happy. Yet through it all, she failed to see just what Maddy had lost. I found it hard to be sad for her even in the end as she had brought it all on herself. I enjoyed the scenes with Granny Belfield, a rather cantankerous and stubborn old woman but with a heart somewhere deep within. I also enjoyed watching Greg grow from a troubled lad to a prosperous man with ambition.
I really enjoyed ORPHANS OF WAR but I felt there was a lot that could have been left out as well as a lot of repetition and other parts that could possibly have been expanded on. For example, there was a point in the story as children Greg had done something which deeply upset and offended Maddy after-which she said she would never speak to him again...and then in the next chapter, they were bosom buddies again. There was nothing to explain how she got past that and moved on with their friendship. And what happened to the other evacuees? They just sort of petered out and maybe mentioned in passing once or if that. I felt some parts of the story was skimmed over and others we were given way too much information on, drawing it out even further.
The chapters were unnecessarily long in parts. I mean, 55 minutes to a chapter? I think 20 minutes to 30 minutes is sufficient in historical fiction. But again, I feel this is due to the rehashing and repetition of events that didn't need re-going over. Along with Maddy's constant self-loathing, believing she was not deserving of happiness. I can understand that but to keep rehashing it? It did draw each chapter out that little bit longer.
Overall, ORPHANS OF WAR is a wonderful escape from reality, an easy read even if it is a tad long. I still thoroughly enjoyed it and the adventures surrounding the longstanding Victory tree.
A beautiful tale with a satisfying end, ORPHANS OF WAR is at times heartbreaking as we follow Maddy, Gloria, Greg and Plum through love, loss, tragedy, grief, deceit, betrayal, secrets and, ultimately, redemption.
Recommended for fans of historical fiction.
I would like to thank #LeahFleming, #NetGalley and #AvonUK for an ARC of #OrphansOfWar in exchange for an honest review.
Top reviews from other countries
When you read this book it feels as though you are there with them which to me is the sign of a good author. Read it for yourself you will enjoy it.
This was an excellent story, I am going to have to read all her books now. Her stories are gripping and well written.
Don't stop writing Leah.