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The Secret Book of Flora Lea - a story set in 1940 and 1960 that is both moving and magical.

In 1940, Hazel and her little sister Flora Lea were sent to Binsey, Oxfordshire, in the English countryside from their home in Bloomsbury, London. Their relocation was part of Operation Pied Piper (a terrible name if you know the sad tale) where children from the cities were sent away from their families as the threat of German bombs escalated. The two sisters found a loving home with Bridie Aberdeen and her teenage son, Harry. Fourteen-year-old Hazel had invented a fantasy world called Whisperwood, which helped to provide excitement and comfort to five-year-old Flora. One day, while taking her eye off of her sister for only a few minutes, Flora disappeared and was feared to have drowned. Twenty years later, Hazel is working in a rare bookstore and opens a package of a new book from an American author entitled Whisperwood and the River of Stars. Believing that only she and her sister knew of this place of fantasy, which came from her own imagination, Hazel, long racked with guilt over Flora's disappearance, upends her life to find out how the writer came to create this story. Could Flora be alive after all these years?


Patti Callahan Henry has created such a lovely story in The Secret Book of Flora Lea. The hamlet of Binsey came to life as an idyllic setting as London was faced with ongoing terror during the war. When the story shifted to London in 1960, Henry captured the city's vibrancy. While not a fantasy story, this book was magical. The mystery was compelling but more than anything, I adored the characters and their relationships - the bonds between sisters, mothers, friends and a first love.


Many thanks to Atria Books for providing an advance copy of this highly original book in exchange for an honest review.


Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Historical Fiction.

Publication Date: May 2, 2023.


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