Member Reviews

Three stars here as a midpoint since I'm enjoying it but haven't finished yet- I think I need to soft DNF before I pick it back up again. It reads really slowly and intentionally, and I'm really liking the story so far, but I just am not as gripped as I thought I would be? Here's hoping it will feel more enticing when I get back to it!

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I really liked the idea behind this book but unfortunately it was a DNF for me. I just could not get into it.

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This was a sweet, slow historical fiction novel, and I thought the characters were charming. I did think it was a little slower than I would have liked, but still enjoyed it overall. The ending felt right to me, too, which was important.

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This was perfect. No notes. I just love how Patti Callahan Henry writes about literature and stories. Her books are always so special and make you feel so warm and fuzzy as a reader. I cried. I smiled. I fell in love. Highly recommend this one.

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The Secret Book of Flora Lea is told in alternating time periods and the switch back and forth in time with each chapter is smooth and doesn't remove the reader from being immersed in the story at all through the reading.

This book is about the bond of sisterhood and is about the power of stories to bring us together and keep us connected with each other and with our home. This book is also about books and stories and the power they have to transport us. This book is perfect for anyone who loves books and loves to read. There is also an element of mystery in this novel.

There is also an element of romance in this book which I enjoyed and this is very much a novel about first love. I really enjoyed the addition of the epilogue at the end of this novel which provides the reader with a glimpse into the future for the characters in this novel.

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Don’t you just love it when a book can entertain and introduce you to a part of history you probably hadn’t heard about before? The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry checks so many boxes: historical fiction, magic realism, myth, found family, mystery, lost and found loves. During World War Two, children from English cities were either sent to North America (which I fondly remember learning about from The Guests of War Trilogy by Kit Pearson), or to the English countryside through the oddly named Operation Pied Piper. Hazel and Flora are sent to the Oxford countryside before the blitz where they board with Bridie and her son Harry. Hazel has created a world where the sisters can escape called Whisperwood. When young Flora needs to feel comforted they head to their special world and very few people were ever told about it. In a moment of impulse, Hazel leaves a sleeping Flora on the riverbank only to return to her missing, and presumed drowned. Years later, Hazel and her Mother have been contacted by a journalist looking into the missing children from Operation Pied Piper and they don’t want to relive this terrible past and the guilt they both feel. Hazel comes across a book by an American author titled Whisperwood and the River of Stars. How could this be? Could Flora still be alive? Will Hazel get her fairy tale ending? This book outlines a time in history when parents made unimaginable decision and the resilience and traumas facing families at that time. Thank you to NetGalley and Simon Schuster Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Well this was an absolutely wonderful book.
At the beginning of the book our main character, Hazel is working at an antiquarian bookstore unpacking and itemizing rare books (my DREAM JOB)! However she is soon off to bigger and brighter experiences moving on to a much more elitist job at an auction house in London. But before she leaves this charming little shop, she comes across a story book that possesses a tale that shakes her to her very core. You see, when she was a young girl she used to tell her little sister Flora the story of “Whisperwood” , an imaginative world where they would be safe and happy and distracted from the war. Hazel and Flora have had to flee their home and parents in London to escape the bombing and it is up to Hazel to protect her little sister while they are away. Tragically, one day Flora disappears, everyone believing she accidentally tumbled into the river and drowned. And now, like a ghost from the past, the story she has told to only her little sister has appeared. Hazel then sets out in search of the author of this book in the hopes to find out information on her sister's disappearance or maybe, hopefully, find her sister alive after all these years.

A lovely, lovely, story. Well written, suspenseful, wonderful plot complications and characterization. Definitely one to put on your summer reading list.

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The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry

I absolutely loved the setup of this story. Hazel made up a world to comfort and entertain her little sister Flora when they were evacuated from their home during WWII. 20 years after Flora goes missing, this world and story somehow gets written and published by someone she has never met. So unique and intriguing.

I found this story completely captivating and read it quite quickly! My only complaint was that in my opinion the writing style seemed to change quite a bit toward the end. I found the revelations and conclusion to be quite cheesy. Some of the words the characters were saying just seemed forced and a bit cringey. But if didn’t take too much away from my enjoyment of the story line.

Overall this one was a pleasant surprise! Thank you to @simonschusterca for my copy! This book was out on May 2nd!

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Hazel and her sister Flora were sent to the rural countryside during WWII.
Separated from their mother Hazel would tell her little sister fantastical stories about a magical place called Whisperwood.
Flora goes missing and is presumed dead, but Hazel never gives up hope that she will find her sister.
Twenty Years later Hazel comes across a book of stories, her stories. The stories of Whisperwood, the stories she shared with no one but Flora.
With renewed hope of finding her sister, Hazel will stop at nothing to get answers.

This book had me from beginning to end.
Having said that there were certain aspects of the ending I didn’t love, it kind of changed the story for me but not in a huge way. But for sake of spoilers I will keep it to myself.

In the end, this was a great story.

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"𝙉𝙤𝙩 𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙮 𝙡𝙤𝙣𝙜 𝙖𝙜𝙤 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙫𝙚𝙮 𝙛𝙖𝙧 𝙖𝙬𝙖𝙮, 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙤𝙣𝙘𝙚 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙞𝙨 𝙖𝙣 𝙞𝙣𝙫𝙞𝙨𝙞𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙥𝙡𝙖𝙘𝙚 𝙧𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩 𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙪𝙨."

I find I am drawn to these type of books because they remind me so much of my Nanny and the stories she used to tell me of her life as a young evacuee during WWII.

In the war-torn London of 1939, fourteen-year-old Hazel and five-year-old Flora are evacuated to a rural village to escape the bombings of WWII. Hazel helps fill their days with walks and games to help distract Flora, including creating a fairy tale about a magical land, a secret place that is all their own that they can escape too. But one day the unthinkable happens when Flora disappears. Twenty years later, Hazel comes across a book that has connections to her past and her missing sister.

I loved the premise of two sisters trying to escape their realities by creating a special ‘secret’ fairy tale land. This book had the perfect mix of love, heartache, found family and hope, with a touch of whimsical magic.

Callahan writes in such a way that you feel completely transported to another time and place.

The authors note at the end explaining how she came up with the story, together with the historical events that it’s loosely based on was a special little bonus.

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I took my time reading this one and loved it from the very first page. Hazel and her little sister Flora are evacuated from London during the blitz to Oxfordshire. Hazel comforts her young sister by telling her stories of their own make-believe world, Whisperwood. One day Flora disappears and is thought to have drowned in the river Thames.

Flash-forward twenty years and Hazel is working in a bookshop specializing in rare books and first editions. A book comes into the shop and Hazel discovers it is about their Whisperwood! Reeling from the impossibility Hazel tries to contact the author and find out how she could possibly know the intricacies of her private make believe world only Flora knew about.

I absolutely loved getting lost in this story, wrapped up in the mystery of what happened to Flora Lea. Patti's writing is gorgeous.

Thank you NetGalley & Simon & Schuster for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

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A tale of family, love, imagination, and determination 2 decades after a tragedy that rocked a family and all those around them.

In 1939 Hazel and Flora Lea are sent away to the countryside by their mother to keep them safe from the bombings sure to come in London due to war. Hazel keeps herself and sister calm by telling tales of their adventures in the secret imaginary world exclusive to them, Whisperwood.

Tragedy befalls them when Flora goes missing and Hazel suspects she is taken by the River Thames and blames herself for not being there to save her.

20 years later she is a rare bookseller in London, but she has never forgotten or given up on her sister. She stumbles upon a first edition of an American bestselling picture book with the name of her fairytale, Whisperwood and the River of Stars. She knows she never told a soul about her imaginary world, and the only way the story could have found it's way into a book was that Flora is alive and shared the story. She goes on a hunt to find answers to what happened all those years ago and what happened to Flora.

This novel was heart breaking, magical, fascinating, beautiful, and masterful. The story the author weaved was so well told, it was enchanting while weaving in so much well researched history I had no idea happened. I could not put this down and I felt myself in the story and in the characters. I was immersed into the world the author created and the felt the emotions of the characters. It was a beautiful reading experience.

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I love this type of historical fiction because it the writing transports me to a place and time so thoroughly that I feel like I am there.

The plot grabbed me from the beginning and I hurriedly turned the pages to find out what would happen. Spanning roughly twenty years between 1939-1960, the story follows a woman named Hazel whose sister disappeared when they were kids sent to the English countryside to be out of harm's way during WW2. For twenty years, Hazel has blamed herself for not protecting her six year old sister, Flora Lea. When she discovers that an American author has written a fairy tale that Hazel had made up to soothe her frightened sister, she embarks on a quest to find out how the story survived - if story survived, maybe her sister did too.

I loved the mystery and couldn't wait to have it solved but what I loved most about the story were relationships between the characters, the creativity of the storytelling, and the commentary about how stories have the power to save us.

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The Secret Life of Flora Lee

by Patti Callahan Henry

When a woman discovers a rare book that has connections to her past, long-held secrets about her missing sister and their childhood spent in the English countryside during World War II are revealed.

This story of two sisters is golf with different timelines and is a story of what exactly family is all about.

A very pleasant read. This was published May 2, 2023 by Atria Books.

Thank you to @simonschusterca and @netgalley for the gifted ARC.

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In 1939, sisters Hazel and Flora Lea are evacuated from London to the Oxford area. The come to a charming cottage and caring family but still feel the wrench of being away from their mother and from home. To help her little sister cope, Hazel tells her stories of the magical land of Whisperwood. A year later, Flora disappears near the River Thames. Hazel blames herself and never stops hoping her sister will be found.

Twenty years later, Hazel is working in a rare bookstore. She unwraps an original edition of a fairy tale called Whisperwood and the River of Stars. How did her secret stories for her sister appear in a published book? Is there a link to her missing sister? Hazel’s life is turned upside down as she pursues clues to try and find her sister and solve the mystery of the book.

I quite enjoyed this book. It is a well-written dual timeline tale with some unexpected twists and some more predictable outcomes as well. The characters were well developed and the descriptions of the environments, circumstances and perspectives made things more real and enjoyable. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

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’The Secret Book of Flora Lea’ fulfilled and exceeded my high expectations of Patti Callahan Henry’s writing. I didn’t want to put the book down and found myself saying, “one more chapter” like it was my new mantra.
The year is 1939. Fourteen-year-old Hazel and her sister, five-year-old Flora are evacuated from London to a village in Oxfordshire to wait out the war in the safely of the countryside. They find themselves taken in by a kind woman and her son who live in a quaint, storybook cottage near the River Thames.
Hazel finds herself in the role of mother to her younger sister, who is scared and unable to understand what is happening. In an effort to soothe her sister, Hazel makes up a story about a magical world, a safe haven they escape to that is all their own, called Whisperwood.
But then one day during a picnic by the river, Flora goes missing.
Twenty years later, Hazel is at her last day of work at a rare bookstore in London. She has a handsome man in her life, and is looking forward to spending a week in Paris with him before starting her new job at Sotheby’s. But everything changes when she opens a package containing a newly published children’s book from America entitled, ‘Whisperwood and the River of Stars’.
Hazel never told the story of Whisperwood to anyone but Flora. Does this mean Flora is still alive? Could this story lead Hazel to her missing sister?
This was an absolutely incredible book. It has dual timelines, which are woven together seamlessly. This book underlines the idea that a story is never just a story. Stories have the magical power to bring people together.
I have to thank Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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There is something so whimsical and endearing about the authors books. It’s clear she loves classics and they seep in beautifully into her novels.

This one is now tied for my favourites by her. I loved the story of Hazel & Flora Lea. It was equal parts mystery, romance, sisterhood and finding yourself… some of my favourite genres.

Patti has easily become an auto buy author. 4.5 stars from a big fan

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This story is beautiful.

Hazel made up an entire fairytale world for her sister Flora called Whisperwood and reading about it felt magical. When Flora went missing, presumed to have fallen in the river when she was six, Hazel, 15, blamed herself and walked away from everything, the family she was living with, the boy she was feeling in love with, and Whisperwood too. Until one day, 20 years later, she comes across a book called Whisperwood and it’s the same world she imagined. She then goes on a quest to find out if Flora is out there somewhere.

The story is told with alternating timeline, my favorite format and it works really well here. It part mystery (what happened to Flora?), part self discovery, part magical world. I really enjoyed it!

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Thank you to Net Galley for the advanced copy of this book. What an amazing story!! This book encompassed so many genres within one book. It had suspense, romance, mystery and also maintained its strong historical component. Right from the start this story captivates your attention. You immediately fall in love with the two sisters as you feel for them having to be evacuated where they only have each other to lean on and then the an even worse event happens which entices you to read this book as fast as you can. There are a few subplots that all tie into the main plot and each little story is interesting in itself. Other characters within the book are so interesting and so well developed that you fall in love with everyone within this book. This was a five star read for me as I could not put it down and couldn't wait to see how things turned out. A real page turner!!!

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The Secret Book of Flora Lee is a charming, heart tugging book that will have you turning the pages long after the lights should be out.

It is a story about sisters, magic, grief and love, family, secrets, war and so much more.

Hazel and her sister Flora having been evacuated during WW2 out of London are living in the Aberdeens when 4 year old Flora simply disappears.

Twenty one years later Hazel receives a copy of a children's book that is the secret world she and Flora were part of.

From that moment on you are caught up in their story both past and present and the magic of the storytelling will have you hooked.

The Secret Book of Flora Lee is spellbinding and one the reader should take and savor.

Patti Callahan Henry you have a new fan: this is my first but not my last book of yours.

I don't re read many books but I could certainly do so to revisit Flora and Hazel.

Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada, Simon & Schuster for a spellbinding read I won't soon forget.

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