About the Book:
England, 1957. Olive Kersey’s only love never returned from World War II, and now, she’s alone and penniless. Then, the last person she ever expected to see again returns to Southwold. Olive’s childhood friend, Margery Paxton, arrives to claim her inheritance: Mersea House, a stately old home she plans to turn into the town’s only lodging. Olive’s life takes a sunny turn when Margery hires her to run the establishment. But Mersea House holds its own mysteries—and its own dangers.
First, rumors begin to fly when two enigmatic lodgers move in: Hugh Hodson, manager of the town cinema, and Mrs. Abigail Claypool, a recluse and war widow. And then, the completely unexpected: Margery is informed she has a new ward, eleven-year-old Juniper Wyckes, the orphaned daughter of Margery’s first love. Mrs. Lucie Pagett, Children’s Officer at the local authority, informs Margery that Juniper was severely stricken with polio as a child, and makes clear that she could be taken away if her welfare is in jeopardy.
Olive fears Juniper is being bullied at school because of her disability, even as the girl begins to thrive at home. But the past is never far behind for the inhabitants of Mersea House, and looming secrets may destroy these friendships they’ve created.
The Orphans of Mersea House follows the lives of Olive, Margery and Juniper, an eleven year old, as they all come together at the Mersea House. Olive and Margery grew up together for a time and lost touch when Margery went to London. Olive has dealt with her fair share of love, loss and choices made in life.
Set in the time post World War II, we come across people who have lost loved ones and who are trying to move on with their lives. The author gives us a glimpse into the lives of the people but with a slightly less focus on the historical aspect. The story is purely one of friendship, love and honoring promises. It’s of strong bonds and family that is made among friends who learn to accept one another for who they really are.
The book has a diverse set of characters, each as different from the other but bringing so much to the table. I adore Hugh and Mrs C. I also liked reading about Billy and the impact he has on Juniper’s life. More than anything, I love how the author has handled a character dealing with the after effects of polio with delicacy providing enough information to us as a reader. In addition, the author has shown us that having polio does not make one any different from the rest, the person/people can lead normal lives just like anyone else (while taking into account the constraints).
I enjoyed reading about Olive and Margery’s friendship and their antics when they were children. Perhaps the best part of the book is the bond that forms between Olive and Juniper (even though she is officially Margery’s ward). Juniper is a delightful child who ends up bringing out the best in everyone around her at Mersea House while carving a place for herself. As secrets have a way of coming out people have a choice with respect to how they react to them and this is also portrayed in this story.
This is a beautifully written story that reminds us what it means to have friends and family, the importance of friendship, acceptance and the joy of being in love. A truly remarkable and enjoyable read, I would recommend this book to everyone!