The Throwaway Children by Diney Costeloe

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The Throwaway Children by Diney Costeloe

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: Two sisters are abandoned by their pregnant mother and sent to an orphanage in Australia, much to the chagrin of their doting grandmother.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: May 2015
Publisher: Head of Zeus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781784970017

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They seemed like a perfect little family unit: Mavis and her two young daughters, Rita and Rosie. But widowed Mavis needed a man in her life and violent bully Jimmy was only too happy to enjoy the perks of such a relationship, even if it meant putting up with her troublesome children. When Mavis finds herself pregnant with Jimmy's baby, he agrees to marry her on one condition: the girls have to go. Distraught Mavis chooses her man over her children, setting in motion a tragic chain of events that leads to the girls being sent to an orphanage thousands of miles away in Australia. The Throwaway Children follows the lives of Rita and Rosie as they struggle to make sense of this new, unfamiliar world.

The story is a compelling one and as a consequence, the book is very hard to put down. We are introduced to a small cast of players, of heroes and villains, and invited to sit and observe as events unfold. Of course, sitting passively is extremely difficult, given the storyline, and many a reader will inevitably find themselves heckling the characters from the sidelines, encouraging the good guys and booing the baddies. At the centre of it all, are our young innocents: the feisty and outspoken Rita and her shy, clingy sister Rosie. Rita is a strong and appealing character, who shouldn't be underestimated simply because she is a child.

Throughout the story, the poor children are thrown from one dilemma to the next. Just as I imagined that things couldn't get any worse for them, they did. One of the characters is given a particularly hard time by the author and her story is heartbreakingly sad. Just as in real life, the villains don't always get what they deserve and the innocent suffer.

I really enjoyed reading the book, even though it was incredibly sad in parts. My only slight criticism would be the inclusion of several ancillary characters, who had potential to add to the storyline, but were somewhat underused. For example, in one of the early chapters, Rita meets a boy called Paul on the ship and he encourages her to write. He didn't appear again and I really wanted them to meet up, years later and share stories. Another underused character was the school bully Sheila, who could have added another layer to Rita's misery by making her life hell at school, but her bark ended up being much worse than her bite and she too eventually faded into the background.

The book is clearly well researched and historically accurate. I would have liked the author to have added an historical note at the end of the book, explaining where she got her inspiration from and whether the practice of sending orphans to Australia was common following the war. Are Rita and Rosie based on real people? I would love to know. Many thanks to the publishers for my review copy.

Those who enjoy this book may like reading Days of Grace by Catherine Hall, a story of intense friendship in wartime London.

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