After her father’s new wife asks for her help, genealogist Jayne Sinclair embarks on probably the most emotive case she has dealt with so far. On her deathbed, Freda Duckworth confesses that in 1944, she gave birth to an illegitimate son, placing him in a children’s home until she was in a position to bring him up herself. When she was finally in that position, the boy had vanished. With conflicting reports as to what had happened to him, Jayne must investigate one of the most shameful periods in recent history in order to discover his fate.
The Vanished Child is the fourth book in the Jayne Sinclair series and, in my opinion, is easily the best. The storytelling is very emotive, dealing with an issue that many people are still dealing with today – the fate of the child migrants. In the last century, over 100,000 children from the UK were sent to countries such as Canada and Australia for a ‘better life.’ Of course, this better life was not to be for many of the children who were unloved and abused. As someone who discovered two of these child migrants in my own family, this book really struck a chord with me. In my family, two sisters who had lost their mother were sent to Canada despite them still having a father and brother in the UK.
The Vanished Child tells the story of Harry, who is sent to Australia without the consent of his mother, who is desperate to have her son back at home with her. This was the most heartbreaking part of the book – a mother determined to locate her child and a child desperate to be with his mother, but the scheming of the authorities prevented this from happening. Harry was a wonderful character: a boy who despite the horrific life he is having to endure, never gives up hope that one day he will be able to return home.
This was very different to the other genealogical fiction I have read in that, in most of these books, the genealogist is put in some danger as they try to uncover something from the past. Where this book differed, though, is that the focus was firmly placed on uncovering the truth and Harry became the main character rather than the researcher.
If you have never read any genealogical fiction before, this would be a great place to start. As well as penning a sensitive, well-written story, M J Lee has explored a period in British history which still remains unknown to many people today. A must read in more ways than one.