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TOtimes Books: The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry


Impossible to not really like this one – a compelling story about the bonds of sisterhood, hope, and listening to one’s inner voice.  The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry gives us a child’s perspective on the horrors of the Nazi bombing of England during the early stages of WW2, and how the British Government – trying to keep kids safe – developed ‘Operation Pied Piper’.

Far from perfect, it’s the stuff they left out of your grade 10 history class. Leaving London, Hazel Linden takes full responsibility for her younger sister Flora Lea – primarily by developing escapist fairy tales (Whisperwood) that settle her down.  

Then tragedy strikes as Flora disappears on the banks of the River Thames.

The book goes into dual timelines as we see the adult Hazel with a career ahead of her (rare in the 1960’s) and her efforts to try to find out more about what happened to six-year-old Flora. Through a combination of guilt and lack of closure, Hazel remains haunted by her sister’s disappearance 20 years later and will not give up on the notion that she might somehow still be alive. Then…out of nowhere…a cryptic clue that Hazel must chase until the end, regardless of consequence.

At this point, you’ll have to be careful not to jump ahead a few pages to find out what happens as the plot thickens quite credibly, and the lead characters are wonderfully advanced.

My only criticism – and it’s minor, and maybe a bit selfish – is that I wish the author offered a little more on new characters that appear in the final few chapters.  An easy 9 out of 10.  

The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry, Simon & Schuster Canada. Copyright 2023 by Patti Callahan Henry  


by Laurie Wallace-Lynch

Other articles from totimes.ca – otttimes.ca – mtltimes.ca

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