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The Lost English Girl


The Lost English Girl

Viv Byrne has never been adventurous, with the exception of one night. Standing at the Liverpool Register Office on a bleak January morning in 1935, she knows that the one passionate night she spent with Joshua Levinson will haunt her for the rest of her life. Joshua also imagined a very different life. He pictured himself as a famous saxophone player headlining clubs in New York City, not marrying a woman he only went on one date with and got pregnant.

Aside from her sister, Kate, Viv’s family is completely unsupportive. The fact that Joshua is Jewish does not help either as Viv’s mother and father are devout Catholics and take every opportunity to show their disappointment in her. Following the civil ceremony on the steps of the Register Office, Viv’s mother offers Joshua all of their family’s savings to leave their daughter. With the hope of making his musical dream a reality, he takes the money --- surprising his family, embarrassing Viv, and dooming her to a life with her uncaring and toxic parents.

"THE LOST ENGLISH GIRL is a captivating story, full of tears, anger and love. It will take your heart for a ride and may make you cry, but it’s all worth it."

In 1939, every resident of Liverpool, England, is talking about a potential war with Germany. Viv, who is still living with her parents and fielding abuse from her mother daily, is hoping and praying it won’t happen. When the local priest comes to talk to Viv about evacuating her four-year-old daughter to the countryside, she refuses. Maggie is all she has, and the last thing she wants to do is send her away to live with a family she doesn’t know. But when war breaks out, that’s exactly what Viv is compelled to do.

In New York City, Joshua’s musical career doesn’t materialize, and every day he wonders if he made the right choice. He has no contact with Viv --- she told him that if he left, she didn’t want to hear from him ever again --- and he thinks about that decision all the time. With little to his name, he shuttles from club to club hoping to finally land a gig that will redeem him in his family’s eyes…and, if he’s being honest with himself, his eyes too.

When England enters the war, Joshua decides it’s time to go back there and join the service. He can’t bring himself to see his family, and especially not Viv. For the first time, though, he feels like he’s moving in the right direction in his life. When he’s injured in the line of duty, he knows he needs to make amends with Viv and meet his child. But a lot has happened during the war, and even if he can find Viv, reuniting with their daughter will be another obstacle.

There are times when I read a book and fully side with characters that I get irrationally angry when they’re treated badly. THE LOST ENGLISH GIRL is one of those books. Viv is a quiet person who knows she has made mistakes but wants to make the best life for her daughter. This is not an easy thing to do for a single woman without a support system in the 1930s and ’40s. Her mother is a horrible person, and the moment Viv finally finds her strength, I wanted to cheer her on. Viv and Maggie have a wonderful bond, and it is heartbreaking when they are forced to separate. It is also lovely to see Viv create her own family, embracing the Levinsons, who truly care for her and love her simply for who she is. Viv finds her voice; while she faces heartbreak, she also fights for herself and her daughter.

THE LOST ENGLISH GIRL is a captivating story, full of tears, anger and love. It will take your heart for a ride and may make you cry, but it’s all worth it.

Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on March 18, 2023

The Lost English Girl
by Julia Kelly