Cover Image: The Oceans Between Us: Gripping and emotional novel of separation after World War 2

The Oceans Between Us: Gripping and emotional novel of separation after World War 2

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Member Reviews

The Oceans Between Us

by Gill Thompson

A very good storyteller, Gill Thompson discovered a story that needed to be told and related in such a way that it reached past the bare facts. In The Oceans Between Us, she has done just that.

I was pulled into the story relating to each of the characters as we explored them and their part in making history. Molly and Jack are British mom and son separated when a wartime bomb is detonated destroying their home. They end up oceans apart and although the thread flowing through the book is their longing for each other, their lives continue on with highs and lows. Other themes are institutional abuse and racial discrimination. Those are hard and cold terms that come alive as we watch them played out in this story. The events are a part of history I was unaware of. You’ll want to read this book to see one author’s view of how it may have played out on a personal level and discover if justice was actually ever served.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Headline for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction

Publication:   March 21, 2019—Headline

Memorable Lines:

Everything seemed out of kilter. Like when she’d tried for hours to do a jigsaw here at Warlingham, only to realize half the pieces came from another set.

Jack was a frozen child, forever trapped in her mind in his five-year-old body. Molly could no more imagine him at eighteen than she could fly.

But the lawyer in him resisted the child. He couldn’t risk his career before it had started. Bindoon had given him brawn but it hadn’t robbed him of a brain. Besides, you didn’t fight violence with violence. You fought it with cunning.
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Wow Just Wow!! What can I say? This book felt like a wrinkle in time. I was completely lost in this story and would recommend it on every level.
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A memorable emotional read. There is so much pain in this book. Molly and her son Jack get split up and Jack ends up in Australia. This is a story of loss and love and of Jack seeking justice for all the children who were sent to Australia. It is very moving and emotional and is brilliantly told. 

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
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"The Oceans Between Us" is exactly what the title calls it: a gripping and emotional novel of separation after World War II. Gill Thompson did a great job of bringing us into the hearts and minds of each of the characters. I was heart-broken as I read some of the accounts. The story is about Jack, a young boy who is separated from his mom Molly when a bomb takes out their neighborhood. Molly loses her memory and can't figure out who she is. Jack is taken to an orphanage, where he is treated cruelly and eventually he is sent to Australia, where he is supposed to have a great adventure. His adventure turns out to be a terrible ordeal, more of a child labor camp than anything else Added to that is abuse at the hands of the people set to care for him. When a young couple who can't have children decide to adopt a child from the ones sent, they settle on Jack. Katherine, his adoptive mother, knows the abuse he suffered but does nothing to help the other children. John, his adoptive father, does not even allow them to discuss it. Jack suffers in silence, hoping for the chance to save and avenge his friends one day, all while hoping his mother Molly will come back for him. The book was based on the migration of thousands of children to Australia and the true events that unfolded then. It was riveting and a good read!
I received a free copy of this story from NetGalley for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Couldn’t put this book down.  Similar title to a book I had read and loved.
Very heart wrenching of all books at that time period.
Great characters, Jack told a great story.
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The long journey home

The Oceans between us is a sad story. As with so many historical stories, I once again learned about a segment of history that I had never heard about. 

There were actually two stories. The story of the children taken from orphanages in England, some without parental consent, and sent to Australia. They were promised a better life. They were actually sent to places where they were working in horrible conditions with little food, no education, and harsh caretakers.  Some were beaten, some were sexually abused, and some died. 

This book tells the story of Jack, a young boy separated from his mother during a bombing raid in England during the war. He was sent to an orphanage because his mother could not be found and subsequently sent to Australia as an orphan. His mother Molly was injured and taken to the hospital but did not know her name and could not remember her past. It took many years before she remembered. The book tells the story of both their lives after the war and how they finally found each other.

The second story is about the Aboriginal children that were taken by the government and put into service as maids and such by the Australian government.  It is the story of Rosie, a maid in Jack's adopted families house ,  in Australia and how her and Jack above all odds against them, against his adopted parents wishes, fell in love and were married.

Both stories are sad and should never have happened. This is a book of fiction, but the immigration of some 10,000 children from England to Australia after the war actually happened, as did the forced servitude of the aboriginal children.

The book was very interesting as I was learning something new.  The characters were believable.  I would recommend this book.

Thanks to Gill Thompson, Headline Publishing, and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review an advance copy of the book.
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Special thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a free, electronic ARC of the novel in exchange for an honest review. 

Publication date: March 21, 2019

The idea of this story was very heart-wrenching! However, the execution of the story was not very polished. The writing was too simple and unremarkable, and I truly could not get into the book in the first 3-4 chapters; however, I continued to push through to the end. 

This is a story about how a mom loses her son, when he is 5 years old, during the WWII blitz and how both of them go on through life wondering about the other. The story is a bit sad when it talks of Jack losing his mother, him being an assumed orphan, and him feeling lost or pulled apart involuntarily by circumstances that befall him. I was heartbroken for the mother who had to go through her life not knowing where her son was, or if she would ever see him again in her lifetime. I was confused in the first part of the book trying to figure out voices, and who was speaking and telling their story.  However, about halfway, the story picks up and smooths out, and I'm glad I finished.  Jack and his mother's love is very powerful, and you see how being separated across the ocean motivates them to live life despite not knowing whether the other was alive or not. They both work tirelessly to see if they can find each other no matter the length of time and circumstances that have separated them. 

There is a lot of misogynistic views and male chauvinistic perspectives throughout this book by some of the male characters in this story. Furthermore, I was actually quite offended by the way black people were depicted and treated in this book. Classism and racism was heavily prevalent in this time and I felt sorry for Reggie and Rosie in this book who represent the minorities that exist in both Australia and England. 

I did learn some historical information that I wasn't aware of; however, it was a bit hard to swallow. Seeing that Australia had an ongoing project to bring white people to their country so that they could outbreed/eliminate the Aboriginals is sad and horrible. However, I am very appreciative in the way the author brought both Jamaicans and Aboriginals into the story to show how both monitories were able to live and survive in this environment despite the racism that they experienced. 

Overall, I would rate this book a 3.  I had a tough time getting through the first part of the book, and the writing is not very polished, in my opinion. The book does appear to be realistic in nature and that it was well researched, but the writing is just too simple and not memorable enough to have a lasting impression on me. The beginning is very confusing and it takes about halfway through the book to get to a point where the writing smooths out to be able to tell the story of Jack and his mother.  The ending can also be seen as predictable, but it was a very moving story line to work with.
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I always find it more interesting when I read a book that is inspired by real life circumstances and makes for a fine read. I also learn new things from each book that I read and this one is no different. 
This author has done a fine job in her research and ended up weaving a delightful story even though some of it was pretty heartbreaking. 
This is about the children who were shipped to Australia by the thousand after the 2nd world war.
How awful it must've been during the Blitz. A lot of people were injured, killed and who knows what all else. Homes were destroyed and families were misplaced. 
Historical fiction and along with the author's note and where she got her inspiration for this heartbreaking book is amazing! 
I was angry at the way the children were treated and the parents that weren't trying very hard to find out what happened to their children. Who know what their way of thinking was. Maybe they thought that some of them were better off where they were at. I don't know. 
Right from the start I felt sorry for poor Jack. I can't imagine how upset he must've been coming home from school to find everything gone in a split second. Truly sad.
Some people might not of thought that this was a great read but I really liked it. I loved being transported into the past and seeing how the war affected other people. 
I do know that we mustn't take everyday life for granted. We must take or give each blessing to other people and help wherever we can. You might not know who needs a smile, hug or whatever the case may be. We don't know what they are going through. 
I wanted to reach out and snatch poor Jack up and a lot of other children and give each one a hug and let them know that it will be ok. I even found myself praying for those children. I know it is fiction but I couldn't help myself. * warning* you will need a  box of tissues beside you.  
I recommend this book if you want a great read. My thanks to Netgalley and Headline for a copy of this book. 
No compensations were recieved.
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A fantastic,sensational  fictional book about a little boy named Jack,who lost his mother during the Blitz in England.
She was presumed dead and he was declared an orphan which was far from.the truth.
It took many yrs.,many tears and many lies that were told with perfectly straight faces,to right a wrong that was done to.both Jack and Molly
Jack,was finally  adopted by a family,in Australia,where,one half of the pair,especially the woman loved him with all her heart.
John,the father just tolerated him.
Molly,his mother,whom he thought had died,languished in a hospital.for several yrs.with her memories scrambled or lost.
She knew she had lost something and was constantly searching,but for a long,long time,didn't realize it was Jack,her  son,she was looking for.
This is one of the real.good,fictional stories about WWII, that you won,'t want to end.
Although,the fighting is mostly over,there is enough factual,events happening,that you will find yourself,getting very involved.
Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review,this super book and a special thank you to.Gil.Thompson for his research and awesome writing.
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Highly emotional and very thought provoking. I loved the fact that it was based on real events, even though the book is obviously fiction.
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This book commences with two families -Molly and her son, Jack, in England. We also meet Kathleen and John in Australia. 
The story is set from WiW2 onwards. Jack’s father has been killed in action, so Jack only has his mother, Molly. Whilst he is at school a unexploded bomb detonates in his home. He returns to his house, searching for his mother - but she can’t be found. Jack finds himself in an orphanage run by nuns. They tell him that his mother is deceased. Jack never ceases to hope that this is untrue. The second family presented in this novel are Kathleen and John, John is extremely controlling and domineering. They are unable to have children, and Kathleen yearns for a child. 

Britain and Australia agree to send British orphans across to Australia to increase the ‘white stock’ and flush out the indigenous Aboriginal population. The children are promised a better life with sunshine, oranges, horse riding and driving tractors. The reality is something else. 

The main theme behind the story is the post war child migration scheme scandal. But the book also covers a wide range of issues including racism, infertility, and child labour. It is shocking that the governments were passing laws allowing this. 

Through the author’s writing you can see the unconditional loving bond Molly has with her child. During the novel you feel the depth of Molly’s pain with the loss of her child, her anguish searching and pining for him. 
You feel upset for Jack, so young to have been through so much, losing his mother, being mistreated and being shipped across the world.
With Kathleen you feel her desperate desire for offspring and the sacrifices she makes to placate her husband. You experience the saddening, prejudicious and racist events that occurred during this time period.

Overall, this is an enlightening and thought provoking read which denotes the behaviour of the government during and after WW2 and the devastating repercussions that followed.
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Riveting book that I couldn’t put down - upsetting read of how brutal the nuns and Christian brothers were to the children who thought they were going to Australia for a better life. Gill Thompson descriptions went in to enough detail without going into full explanations of what was actually happening to the children. I always know if it’s been a good read if I have a good cry during or at the end of the book. Will definitely investigate reading more of Gills books.
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I was given a copy of The Ocean's Between Us by Gill Thompson by the publisher in exchange for a honest review.  The book although fictional is based on true events of children being sent to Australia after the war. The book was well written and handled some very difficult subjects, children being sent away and racism. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I liked the characters and thought it was well thought-out. I will be looking out for more books by Gill Thompson.
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Thanks to NetGalley and Gill Thompson for my copy of his book The Oceans Between Us.

The book tells the story of Jack, a young English boy and his mum Molly.
Jack is five when during the Blitz his mother Molly's is presumed dead after a bomb explodes in their backyard and he is sent to an orphanage.
Molly was injured from the bomb blast, she spends years in hospital and has no idea who she is or anything about her life.
Jack is taken to an orphanage, he is told that his mum has died and he had already lost his dad early in the war at Dunkirk.

England had so many orphanages that are full and Australia offered to give home's to children who had lost their parents during the war and it was part of a migration scheme to increase the population of Australia. 
Jack is sent to Australia by boat, the children are told stories about how wonderful his life would be in Australia, sunshine, oranges and wide open spaces.
The horrible fact was many of these children are abused, siblings are often separated and Jack was sent to Bindoon. 
Bindoon is in Western Australia, it's a horrible place, boys are expected to work hard, conditions are primitive and boys are abused and some in the worst possible way.
Jack is lucky, he catches the attention of Kathleen she is married to John and he works for a department that organized the migration scheme. 
They decide to adopt Jack as they don't have children of their own and Kathleen is desperate to be a mother.
Jack's life changes, yes he is given a good home but he finds is difficult to believe his mum has really died and John isn't an easy person to live with.

Molly spends years in hospital, she has lost her memory and has no idea who she is or where she lived or if she's married or a mother.
Years go by, Margaret as she is called, is given all kinds of treatment and slowly she recovers enough that she can leave the hospital, and now given a job at the hospital where she was once a patient and lives in a boarding house.
As time goes on, she starts working in a dress shop and little pieces of memory return, she remembers her name and eventually that she had a son called Jack, her husband had died and her real name is Molly. 

She spends years looking for Jack,  she contacts the orphanage in England to then find out that he had been sent to Western Australia, she writes letters to the orphanage at Bindoon and they do forward the letters on to John who hides them and never tells his wife or Jack that his mother has tried to contact him.

It's a sad story based on true events so many children were sent to Australia after WW2, many were orphans, others their parents had put them into care for only a short period of time while they tried to find work or a place to live, they returned to collect them and to find out that their children had also been sent to Australia.

It's very hard to believe that children were treated this way in Australia, but it's true and Gill Thompson's book "The Oceans Between Us" tells us about the sad details of the children's migration scheme in Australia and he writes a interesting story about this sad time in Australian history.  I enjoyed the book but I did find it was a little slow for me in places and due to this I only gave it three stars.
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Depressing. Realistic with a small ray of hope.
Mostly an account of what it may have been like for a young boy who was separated from his mother in war torn England, and sent to Australia. It's hard for me to imagine what it must have been like since I was brought up by two parents in a loving home. A family that always had what we needed. I doubt that most of us feel that things were always rosie, but the kind of existence that these kids experienced was horrendous.

Australia felt that their population needed a white strengthening, and Britain had a long history of shipping people there. Most of these children were orphans, but not all were. They were told that they were being sent to farms where it was sunny, there were oranges to pick off trees as they wanted, they would have horses to ride, and they would become strong. None of it true. I don't understand though - if they really wanted to strengthen their population with these young people, why they mistreated them so and deprived them of food and education. Instead working them to death. Perhaps it was because of the hands they fell into.

This story tells of those sent to a monastery where the boys were mistreated and abused. Not a loving Christian environment. By including the story of the mother who was back in England, it helps show the injustice even further.

It took 43 years for the truth to be exposed about this tragic happening. It’s estimated that 150,000 children were sent to Australia in total, around 10,000 since 1947. The horrors of German prison camps combined with this horrific treatment of people truly illustrates a time when Satan had his way. Its amazing that there is still a human race at all. But at least people are moved by hearing stories like this about what happened.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher and NetGalley book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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This is a truly amazing story which shows us that the love between mother and son is everlasting, even if they find themselves so far apart they can’t imagine finding each other again. It is also one which shows the horrific things which happened to children who were shipped to Australia and who were supposed to be under the protection of people they thought they could trust.

What is even more horrific is the fact that, although this is a fictional account, it is based on events which actually happened. Even with the heartbreak throughout, this is a story I believe everyone should have the chance to read. 

Huge thanks to the author, the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy.
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I enjoyed this book because  I learned so much about  the true  facts of what happened to  children during the war. I did not  realise that they were sent to  Australia.  This  book was written sympathetically  and honestly.  I recommend it to anyone who likes historical  fiction.
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An interesting story about a topic I was totally unaware of!

There’s so much you don’t learn in history class and I feel like me history education had a lot missing to begin with. It’s always nice to learn new pieces of history. 

The author does a great job weaving historic facts into a compelling story. 

Thanks to Netgalley for the arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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The Oceans Between Us is the début novel from Gill Thompson and she has chosen to write about a topic that will leave the reader angry and upset at the injustice at what befalls the main characters. Even more so because the book is based on true events. The story has a long timeline beginning in 1941, going up to 1962, and in the epilogue it is set in 2009. There are numerous strands throughout the story all told from three distinct perspectives - Molly, Jack and Kathleen. There are five parts to the story spread across various different years that were being featured in that section.

Each character was heard from during that time but the one thing I will say is that as the story jumped around a lot from person to person within each part or even several times within chapters it did become confusing at times. I think it would have been very beneficial to have the name of the character we would be following printed just above the beginning paragraph of that section. I found myself getting used to someone's story and then it jumped to a different character and even several years forward all within the space of a page or two. This was disconcerting to me and I think that's why it took me so long to really get into this book and to see that the author did an excellent job of bringing issues and topics to light that many people in the present day may not have even realised occurred in the first place. It was only when I reached just past the half way point that for me the story really came alive and I became deeply invested in the eventual outcome.

The brief prologue provides us with many questions, just who are the man and woman on the plane? Where are they going? What are the reasons for going to something that they had apparently fought for? I pushed this scene to the back of my mind but when I reached the epilogue I thought it connected very well back the opening pages.We then move back to 1941, the scene is set as Molly Malloy lives in Croydon with her young son Jack. She lost her husband Mick at Dunkirk and has soldiered on since as best she can despite all the deprivations and hardships that the war brings. London is a dangerous place to live as bombing raids are an almost daily occurrence. Then their little family unit is torn apart as a bomb falls near to their house. This sets in motion a change of events that will have far reaching repercussions for many many years.

I loved how the reader knew everything that was going on at all times during the book. There was nothing kept secret from us or hidden and we have to decipher the clues so to speak. It's the characters that are kept in the dark and it was interesting would the wool ever be pulled from their eyes and light therefore allowed to shine though. War and bureaucracy play a major part at what unfolded as a woman remains in a hospital. Her memory gone and no recollections as to who she is or how she came to be there? We follow this person for several years and over time it becomes apparent that this is Molly and that fateful day when the bomb exploded was the day her life changed forever and she was separated from her beloved Jack.

Molly throughout was a character who was very fragile and a vulnerable person who had to relearn how to live in the outside world and one who hoped the memories would come back over time. She was in an awful situation, not of her own making, and she had no control over the events that followed. But one thing is certain once she realises she had a son she will not give up looking for him no matter what difficulties and obstacles are thrown in her path. Over the years that follow her own personal circumstances change. Many of these for the better but the gaping hole left by Jack still remains. As you delve further into Molly's point of view and she becomes aware of things you do question why didn't she sort things out fairly quickly once she had some concrete information? On reflection I'm glad the author didn't make things very easy because at the time it wouldn't have been but saying that I wish she had fought that little bit harder with the authorities in England to uncover the truth as to what happened to so many children. Too many excuses were given and she shouldn't have accepted them so readily.

As for Jack we journey with him as he goes from an innocent young five year old whose life was torn apart following the 'death' of his mother in a bombing raid to a man who lives on the other side of the world. Jack experiences many different stages and transitions in his life but he never believes that his mother is dead. He hopes that one day she will come looking for him, to reclaim him so to speak. Children who were left orphans at the time of war were viewed as an extra burden that needed to be dealt with. If you were unfortunate enough not to have a relative to take you in what awaited you was certainly not the best life. Jack lost all his innocence and grew guarded and wary. He becomes traumatised and hardened by unspeakable events.Promises that were made and ideals portrayed were nothing but lies. As the Australian government seeks to boost its white population and curtail their native people a programme is set in motion by the Ministry of Immigration to transport children from England to Australia. I couldn't believe what I was reading and the way the authorities spoke as if they were moving cattle or something for sale. The blatant disregard they had for the Aboriginal people and the manner in which they took in children from another country for their own gains was just incredible and so selfish and immoral. The children were promised the world but then racism and the Catholic Church did play a part in what happened to these children in their new life in Australia.

What angered me even more the further I delved into Jack's aspect of the overall plot was they were promised sunshine and a good life and what they got was the opposite. How could the powers that be not have noticed what was going on or else did they sit back and let it happen and sweep everything under the carpet? Simply because they had long term plans and ambitions with regard to Australia's population and an attempt to make it a super country. I thought the way the author dealt with racism both in Australia and England was wonderfully woven in throughout the story and it shows how far we have come today in some ways and in others various forms still exist.

I thought there were innumerable comparisons to be made between what Jack experiences and who he connects with as he grows older and that of his mother back in England and the path she takes in her personal life. As Jack grows older he is no fool and his desire for revenge with something that connects back to a place called Bindoon was more than justifiable and I could see that this drove him to be the person he became. But still as other characters have a role to play his life could have been so different if secrets hadn't been kept. They were not misunderstandings rather deliberate attempts to keep someone's life the way they felt it should be.

As for Kathleen all she ever wanted was a child to make her family complete. Married to John who works at the Ministry, she leads a lonely existence and craves a baby that will make her feel complete. John was manipulative, domineering and controlling although I felt when their family situation changes this wasn't as apparent in relation to Kathleen and to be honest I don't think a leopard really changes their spots. So I found it frustrating that things became all happy in the garden once Kathleen gets her wish. As they visit a farm where young boys supposedly live a good life, one young boy catches her eye and she feels a connection. Can they adopt and make her dreams come true but at what cost will this be? I could totally understand Kathleen's longing for a child, to fill the emptiness that eats away inside her but I think if she had known all the background details would she have really gone for it. Kathleen had a very strong voice in the earlier half of the book but I thought this faded the further we progressed. I thought a bit more searching and confrontation with John would have added some drama to her storyline. Instead of her sitting back and accepting things as she found them. If she had her suspicions she should have acted on them.

Although it took me quite some time to really get into The Oceans Between Us, I do think having finished it that it was a very good début novel. The author dealt with topics that stir up many emotions in people and people will have firm opinions either way on what went on. At times I felt she did overstretch herself and maybe had too much going on in terms of dealing with racialism and the issues of 'importing' children. I understand that these are two very important parts of history and people deserve to know what went on but at certain times during the story I thought certain aspects were dealt with too quickly and needed more exploration. Maybe shortening the timeline ever so slightly might have helped as well as I thought we moved through years very quickly and it wasn't as apparent to the reader as it should have been that we had moved forward several years. Saying all that this book was a very good read which brought my attention to a time and place that I had very scant knowledge of. It has opened my eyes to the injustice done to so many and it does provide for a thought provoking and interesting read.
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“Even after all these years he still dreads plane journeys.”


I flew through this emotional book with a lump in my heart and watery eyes.

It featured Jack who was transported from the UK to Australia after WW2. I wasn’t aware that this was a practice. It seems madness as many families are temporarily displaced after a war. In Jack’s case, he was incorrectly categorised as an orphan, as were so many others. And madness is understating this revolting child migration scheme, as this book hammers home very firmly.

We get to see the story from Jack’s point of view, and also his mother Molly who never stopped searching for him. And through the eyes of the family that adopted him in Australia. This 360 degree view really emphasised that there were many losers in this program, and it led to lots of unnecessary heartache.

On top of that, it also tacked the horrific theme of Aboriginal children who were separated from their parents by government policy. And sent to work as domestic servants for white middle class families. Horror on top of horror.

I took many of these lovely characters to my heart, and I felt their sorrow from losing family bonds. I was distressed by the harsh life ahead of them. And I cringed and raged at just what some had to endure. But I also felt their bravery in finding justice for all children who suffered from these two awful policies.


I’d strongly recommend this to you if you like emotional plot lines that suck you and spit you out with your heart in shatters. Fans of Lucinda Riley, Hazel Gaynor and Nikola Scott might also enjoy. Or if you enjoy the TV series Call The Midwife, I’d also recommend this to you, as it has a similar time setting and both make me feel all the emotions.
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