Liz Berry reveals the personal story behind her new novel-in-verse The Home Child, our Spring Recommendations. Join the Poetry Book Society today to read the full article in the Spring Bulletin:
"The Home Child is a novel in verse that reimagines the story of my great-aunt Eliza Showell. In 1908, aged twelve and newly orphaned, Eliza was sent from a children’s home in Birmingham to work in indentured service in rural Nova Scotia. She never returned to England or saw her brothers again. Eliza was a “Home Child”, one of over 100,000 poor and vulnerable children who were forcibly migrated to Canada between the 1860s and 1960s as part of the disastrous British Child Migrant schemes.
I first discovered Eliza’s story when I was setting off on my own journey to Nova Scotia. I was on a literary pilgrimage to Green Gables, home of the eponymous Anne, another twelve-year old orphan and my girlhood heroine. In L.M. Montgomery’s novels, Anne – a Canadian – becomes beloved in a way Home Children seldom were. Though born poor and exploited, she remains full of spirit and wonder, and the world falls in love with her.
Pulled from the hidden branches of our family tree, Eliza’s story felt like a shadow to Anne’s. Combing through the records from her children’s home and the few traces of her life left, I found the terrible stigma and powerlessness of poverty but also the profound capacity humans have for love and survival even when the world is very cold to them. Laying wildflowers on Eliza’s small grave in Cape Breton, I knew I wanted to bring her story – and those of Home Children like her – to the light."
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