The Forgotten Girls by Lizzie Page
English | 2020 | Historical Fiction | ePUB | 761 KB
Two women from very different times, linked by a single, powerful photograph of two lost little girls. A moving tale of love and the power of hope in war’s darkest moments, inspired by an incredible true story.
London, 1943. Elaine Parker works as a clerical assistant for the government, transcribing letters from POWs in the hope of finding secret messages to help the war effort. Danger is all around, but dancing and revelry go on behind blackout curtains each night. One evening, Elaine meets famous war photographer Robert Capa and is immediately drawn to him and the haunting photos he takes. Their connection feels so strong, but Bobby’s work is risky, and Elaine has growing troubles of her own at home… while her country is gripped by war, can she afford the price she is being asked to pay for happiness?
Present day. Even the kiss of warm sunshine and the musical call of birds at her family’s countryside villa can’t make forty-four-year-old Jen forget the doomed marriage she’s left behind. That is, until her brother begins to investigate the origins of a tattered family photograph: two sweet little girls gazing out across a sparkling bay, their eyes clear and hopeful – looking for all the world as if they hadn’t witnessed the most terrible war to ever touch England. What is the story behind the picture, and could it finally be the key to mending the cracks in Jen’s own past?
The girls were behaving better than usual, which was a relief. Recently they had been arguing over what was black and what was white and if the moon was made of cheese. Elaine hadn’t slept a wink. She didn’t think she could handle it if they kicked off, not today.
She was hardly able to keep herself together, never mind them.
The girls laughed over breakfast. Barbara pretended her crumpet was a grizzly bear named Tony, who was afraid of jam. They giggled in the bathroom when Shirley got toothpaste down her Peter Pan collar, then they laughed all the way down the road.
They were under strict instructions to ‘be good or else’ but that never made much difference when they were in one of their moods: perhaps they were more chirpy than usual because they had been outdoors so much yesterday. Elaine knew she didn’t take them outside enough. She remembered her mother used to say that children needed fresh air same as puppies. She did try, but so often life got in the way.
Not now though. They were on holiday, and the girls skipped, their long legs flashing under their simple smocks and their socks sparkling white. Shirley had insisted on plaits; helpfully, Barbara had obliged. Then Barbara had tied her own hair in a simple ponytail, but it was better than her usual efforts. Elaine approved. They looked clean, fresh and forgiving. It probably wouldn’t last, it never did, but for now Elaine couldn’t help but feel proud of them.
He was already there, waiting, at the agreed time and place. His camera was round his neck, his shirt was open at the throat, he was in casual clothes. Different but the same. Same but different.
They talked about the boat first. They just dived in, like they’d been talking about the damn boat every day for the last ten years. He had it for a few days, it belonged to a friend of a friend. He’d always had friends everywhere. It was one of his things. Effortlessly popular. They really were polar opposites, Elaine reminded herself.
The boat was called Omaha Beach.
The girls were thrilled to look inside, but Elaine stood apart on the bank. Although she had thought she was prepared for this – hadn’t it been weeks in the planning? – it still felt like she was in shock. Emotionally she was right back in those years after the Blitz when everyone was neither here nor there.