From the author of the USA Today bestseller The Girl Who Came Home comes an unforgettable historical novel that tells the story of two long-lost sisters—orphaned flower sellers—and a young woman who is transformed by their experiences
“For little sister. . . . I will never stop looking for you.”
1876. Among the filth and depravity of Covent Garden’s flower markets, orphaned Irish sisters Flora and Rosie Flynn sell posies of violets and watercress to survive. It is a pitiful existence, made bearable only by each other’s presence. When they become separated, the decision of a desperate woman sets their lives on very different paths.
1912. Twenty-one-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London to become assistant housemother at one of Mr. Shaw’s Training Homes for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the homes have cared for London’s orphaned and crippled flower girls, getting them off the streets. For Tilly, the appointment is a fresh start, a chance to leave her troubled past behind.
Soon after she arrives at the home, Tilly finds a notebook belonging to Flora Flynn. Hidden between the pages she finds dried flowers and a heartbreaking tale of loss and separation as Flora’s entries reveal how she never stopped looking for her lost sister. Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie—but the search will not be easy. Full of twists and surprises, it leads the caring and determined young woman into unexpected places, including the depths of her own heart.
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Tilly Harper takes a job as a housemother at the Training Home for Watercress and Flower Girls in London. Tilly leaves behind her mother and paralyzed sister in hopes of forgetting the tragedies that she caused in her past. Immersed in her work with the girls of Violet House, Tilly forms bonds with the orphaned and disabled girls who create beautiful silk flowers at the Shaw's factory. While at the Violet House Tilly finds a small box with a diary that belonged to one of the previous housemother's, Florrie. As Tilly reads the journal, she finds an intriguing mystery of Florrie and her lost little sister, Rosie. Florrie and Rosie grew up as flower girls on the streets of London, Florrie had a crutch from a childhood illness and Rosie was partially blind. When the girl's mother died, Florrie vowed to protect her little sister and held her hand wherever they went. One day the sisters were separated, Florrie was found by Mr. Shaw and placed in the Training Home. Florrie never stopped looking for her lost little sister. Now, Tilly wants to try to solve the mystery and find the lost little sister while repairing her relationship with her own sister.
A heartwarming tale set in Victorian and Edwardian England tells the stories of two sets of sisters trying to find one another. I enjoyed learning about the homes that were created for the many orphaned and crippled girls that lived on the streets at the time, Hazel Gaynor based the Violet House off of the real work of John Groom and his Mission for Flower and Watercress Girls. The book is written back and forth through time, intertwining the stories of each sister, building the mystery of what happened and allowing the pieces of how their stories fit together to fall into place. I fell for the stories of both sets of sisters that were created. Florrie and Rosie's story was heartbreaking and endearing. While Tilly and her sister Esther remain distant for reasons of their own. I was emotionally invested with each of them and was excited to see how everything came together in the end.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Hazel Gaynor is an author and freelance writer in Ireland and the U.K. and was the recipient of the Cecil Day Lewis Award for Emerging Writers in 2012. Originally from North Yorkshire, England, she now lives in Ireland with her husband, two young children, and an accident-prone cat.
Find out more about Hazel at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.