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The Forgotten Children, by Ann Bennett

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TRIGGER WARNING: Holocaust and Nazi brutality
1938, Helga and Ruth are Jewish twins in Berlin during an increasingly fraught time. Their only hope is to escape abroad but can they save each other? 1990, Naomi goes to France for work but discovers clues about her mother Helga’s secret family history…
The Forgotten Children is a dual timeline and generational novel set in Europe during the 1930s and 1990s.
Naomi’s mother Helga has always been secretive about her past. Naomi’s father escaped from Germany on the Kindertransport but Helga’s past is unknown. The only clue is a photo of a building but even when Naomi finds the site Helga denies all knowledge. Meanwhile in the 1930s we see Helga’s horror at the growing hatred of the Jews. Luckily Helga has a twin Ruth but the pair struggle to adapt to the devastating treatment that the Jews face at the hands of the Nazis.
I found myself fully absorbed by this book as Helga in the past and present struggles to accept the truth of her experience. Naomi wants to find the truth and learn about her family but her search puts her at odds wth her mother. There is plenty of emotion as Helga in the 1930s copes with increasing prejudice and violence. I also found myself sympathetic to her situation in the present as she denies the past. Ruth isn’t mentioned in the present so I was waiting with dread to find out what happened to her in the past.
The Forgotten Children is a gripping and emotional historical novel.

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The Forgotten Children: Unforgettable and heartbreaking WW2 historical fiction by Ann Bennett
Paris, 1941. As we drive down the cobbled street, I take in the red banners with swastikas covering every building. Suddenly a group of guards appears. I duck beneath the window of the car, and my heart thumps as my hand jumps to my chest. But I’m not wearing my yellow star now, I left it with my sister. Tears well in my eyes. Will I ever see her again?
1939. Standing in front of the orphanage’s imposing stone walls, eleven-year-old Jewish twins Helga and Ruth shiver with fear. The war has taken their mother and father, their home in Berlin has been turned to rubble, but their soft, dark eyes meet and Helga gives Ruth a reassuring smile. They should be safe here together.
Yet every day bombs fly overhead. And when Ruth becomes desperately unwell, the girls are torn apart. As war rages on, will they ever find each other?
Paris, 1990. When Naomi moves to Paris, she hopes the city will help her find herself again. But whilst exploring the antique markets in the early morning sun, she is shocked to discover a duplicate of a photograph her mother Helga has on her mantelpiece back in London of a magnificent vine-covered villa on the outskirts of the city. Naomi soon discovers it was used as an orphanage during the Second World War. But why was the photo so precious to her mother?
When Naomi tells her mother what she’s found, Helga is furious. She begs Naomi to leave the orphanage alone. But Naomi is already desperate to discover the truth about her mother and the secrets of the other forgotten children of Montmorency. If Naomi learns the heart-shattering mistake her mother made, it will change their lives forever. But if she leaves the secrets in the past, Helga will never find out what happened to her sister…
Breathtaking and unputdownable, this story is about courage, hope and the resilience of the human spirit, perfect for fans of Before We Were Yours, Sold on a Monday and The Orphan’s Tale.
Buy link: https://geni.us/B0BW4C5W7Wsocial
About the author
Ann Bennett is the author of several historical novels about the second world war in South East Asia, inspired by her father’s experience as a prisoner of the Japanese on the Thai-Burma railway. She has a Law degree and works full time as a lawyer, but is fascinated by India and South East Asia. Since her early twenties she has spent as much time as possible travelling in the region. She’s married with three sons and lives in Surrey.
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