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The Lost English Girl: Book summary and reviews of The Lost English Girl by Julia Kelly

The Lost English Girl

by Julia Kelly

The Lost English Girl by Julia Kelly X
The Lost English Girl by Julia Kelly
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  • Published Mar 2023
    416 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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About this book

Book Summary

From Julia Kelly, the internationally bestselling author of Light Over London, comes a story of love, betrayal, and motherhood set against the backdrop of World War II and the early 1960s.

Liverpool, 1935: Raised in a strict Catholic family, Viv Byrne knows what's expected of her: marry a Catholic man from her working-class neighborhood and have his children. However, when she finds herself pregnant after a fling with Joshua Levinson, a Jewish man with dreams of becoming a famous Jazz musician, Viv knows that a swift wedding is the only answer. Her only solace is that marrying Joshua will mean escaping her strict mother's scrutiny. But when Joshua makes a life-changing choice on their wedding day, Viv is forced once again into the arms of her disapproving family.

Five years later and on the eve of World War II, Viv is faced with the impossible choice to evacuate her young daughter, Maggie, to the countryside estate of the affluent Thompson family. In New York City, Joshua gives up his failing musical career to serve in the Royal Air Force, fight for his country, and try to piece together his feelings about the family, wife, and daughter he left behind at nineteen. However, tragedy strikes when Viv learns that the countryside safe haven she sent her daughter to wasn't immune from the horrors of war. It is only years later, with Joshua's help, that Viv learns the secrets of their shared past and what it will take to put a family back together again.

Telling the harrowing story of England's many evacuated children, bestselling author Julia Kelly's The Lost English Girl explores how one simple choice can change the course of a life, and what we are willing to forgive to find a way back to the ones we love and thought lost.

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
This reading group guide for The Lost English Girl includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book

Introduction

Liverpool, 1935. Raised in a strict Catholic family, Viv Byrne knows what's expected of her: marry a Catholic man from her working-class neighborhood and have his children. However, when she finds herself pregnant after a fling with Joshua Levinson, a Jewish man with dreams of becoming a famous jazz musician, Viv knows that a swift wedding is the only answer. Her one...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Readers will fall in love with unassuming Viv in particular; when faced with heartbreaking events, she exhibits incredible courage. This will hook readers from the first page."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A fascinating novel about a woman's struggle with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, her parents' harsh treatment of both mother and child, and the separation from her child under the threat of an imminent war."—Library Journal

"Well-paced, highly emotional... an excellent read with a satisfying ending."—Historical Novels Review

This information about The Lost English Girl was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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BookwormBecky

Bookworm Becky - Excellent!
“Veneer of respectability,” regrets, sacrifices….

A tale of how two dates changed many lives forever. 18-year-old Catholic Viv becomes pregnant after two dates with 19-year-old Joshua, who is Jewish. Despite her parent’s disapproval , Joshua and Viv will marry, providing a father and a name for their future child. After being pronounced man and wife on their ill-fated wedding day, Viv’s mother offers Joshua a hard-to - refuse offer.

Joshua will go to NYC to pursue a musical career and Viv will raise Maggie as a single mother.

Five years later, in 1939, when many children are being evacuated for pre-war safety reasons, four-year-old Maggie will be placed with a wealthy, childless couple in the British countryside.

What happens during the next five years will be a truly harrowing story . We will learn the choices made and the consequences of these decisions.

A little bit of mystery, history, and romance!

I liked the cast of characters! What a difference between the two sets of grandparents! I loved the twist involving the priest! A story of relationships.

I am stingy with 5.0 ratings. However, after saying that, I have read several deserving books in the last few months. This book was one of them.

I will read future books by this author.

I liked the letters scattered throughout.

For Those Who Are Lost by Julia Bryan Thomas was another book about pre-war evacuation of children. (Guernsey). 5000 children were evacuated. Both books were excellent — NOT at all duplicates. For Those Who Are Lost was one of my top three favorites for 2022. I rated both 5.0.

Elizabeth @Silver's Reviews

Elizabeth @Silver's ReviewsFantastic...don't miss this one!!
It is 1935, and Viv is living the perfect life except for her strict home life.

When Viv was able to work and get out of the house, she relished the freedom.

She met Joshua, a handsome Jewish man, whose passion was to become a musician instead of having to work for his father in the family's tailor shop.

Viv and Joshua became romantically involved, and Viv became pregnant.

The only way out of this situation and to keep her parents from being embarrassed was to marry even though they both were so young.

At the wedding her parents did a very unusual and seemingly cruel thing that kept Viv and Joshua apart.

Viv had no choice but to remain in her childhood home with her controlling mother.

When the war broke out four years later, Viv had to send her beautiful Maggie to the countryside to keep her safe from the bombings.

Julia Kelly brings us another heartbreaking, well-researched book that has us following the lives of Viv, Joshua, and Maggie before, during, and after the war.

What will happen to the characters?

And who is the "LOST" English girl?

As always, Ms. Kelly's masterful, engrossing writing style has you not wanting to stop reading for many reasons, but mostly for the characters and the themes of family, forgiving, and learning to live life the way it should be lived.

Don't miss Ms. Kelly's newest gem...it is FAB!! 5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher for an honest review - print and NetGalley copy.

Leah L. (Lawrence, NY)

It's all about the choices we make
I liked this book. It's well-written with decent character development. As a reader, I grew to care about the characters (and despise others). World War II books abound nowadays yet this offers a different perspective. The war is the setting for a complicated parent/child relationship and a more supportive one. The two protagonists -- Viv, who's been raised in a strict Catholic family and Joshua who's from a Jewish family, are living in Liverpool in the 1930s when they briefly meet and then Viv becomes pregnant. They have left the altar when Viv's stern mother offers Joshua a deal that he feels he cannot turn down. Each protagonist makes choice after choice with the information that each has at that given moment in their lives. While I have read volumes about the Kindertransport during World War II, this is the first time that I read anything about Operation Pied Piper. I would have welcomed more development on author Julia Kelly's part about the psychological and emotional traumas rendered by this part of history. Nonetheless, Kelly does an admirable job of bringing everything together at the end. This is not a happily-ever-after novel in the traditional sense. But it whets one's appetite to research and learn more about this part of history. Job well done, Julia Kelly.

Elizabeth L. (Langhorne, PA)

Feeling a mother's pain
The primary story of Viv, Joshua and Maggie is a sad tale but a realistic one where love triumphs in the end. I did not know that children were evacuated from Liverpool during WWII, and Viv's pain at leaving her daughter behind was palpable.The description of Catholic expectations and rules in the 40s, and the feelings toward Jews was spot on. The supporting characters (Viv's mother, Rebecca, Moss in particular) were so well drawn that their personalities came to life on the page. Transitioning between Joshua and Viv's viewpoint (and occasionally Maggie's) was very effective, as was the decision to tell the story in 5 year increments. I highly recommend this book if you like historical fiction and don't mind shedding a few tears.

Susan P. (Boston, MA)

The Lost English Girl
In Liverpool before WWII, Vivian, a Catholic young woman, becomes pregnant by Jewish musician Joshua (whom she likes very much but they've only known each other a short while). His parents are accepting. Her parents -- dominated by a cruel, unfeeling, controlling, and AWFUL mother -- are not happy. Once married, the musician accepts money to leave for good, for NYC to make his way. Devastated Vivian and her delightful daughter Maggie live with her parents -- wimpy dad and the horrible mother who only cares about the opinions of others. When war breaks out, Maggie (like many children in English cities then) is sent to live in the country. The couple caring for her love her but are far too possessive for Vivian. You cheer for Vivian who gets a job and finally moves out of her parents' home (yay!!). Then the countryside is being bombed, and the couple and Maggie are presumed dead. Joshua comes back to enlist in the RAF. Vivian is a postal carrier and serendipitously delivers mail to home of his parents & sister -- who are the most normal and loving people. They all believe Maggie is lost until a clue gives them hope. One of the many good outcomes: Vivian steels her heart against her heartless, mean parents. This is a fantastic read with interesting good and bad historical details about prejudice, home life, and military life then.

Jeanne F. (Stamford, CT)

The Lost English Girl
I just finished this book and I really did enjoy it. I always read books and ask the question- would this be good for my book club? I do think so as there are many societal issues that are embedded and could be fodder for discussions. I also felt the pace quickening as first Viv was feeling the lowest of lows and then to find out her worst fears had not come true. ( I'm trying here to not give spoilers-not easy to do! ) My one comment for the author would be about the title. Since many of the characters were "lost" I felt the title should be more broad. As it is now it might lead a reader to think that it is only about a little girl, when in fact it is so much more than that.

...34 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Julia Kelly

Julia Kelly is the award-winning author of books about ordinary women and their extraordinary stories. In addition to writing, she's been an Emmy-nominated producer, journalist, marketing professional, and (for one summer) a tea waitress. Julia called Los Angeles, Iowa, and New York City home before settling in London. Readers can visit JuliaKellyWrites.com to learn more about all of her books and sign up for her newsletter so they never miss a new release.

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