The Lost English Girl
Grade : C+

It’s hard to find an original angle on a World War II story at this point. The Lost English Girl manages to provide a somewhat fresh twist on the subject by exploring the strained marriage between a Christian woman and a Jewish man, and the child she places in seeming safety for the duration of the war. It’s a touch too melodramatic and there’s a bit too much obviousness going on, but the story is well-told and the emotions properly affecting. Kelly has real talent, and the resulting book manages to rise slightly above the same-old same-old of the genre. If you’re looking for romance this is likely to disappoint, as the connection between our main characters goes cold pretty early and does not result in even a HFN.

Teenaged Liverpudlian Vivian Byrne lives under the oppressive heel of her judgmental and very religious mother and passive father. An affair with jazz musician Joshua Levinson, whom she meets one night at a dance hall, results in a shotgun, cross-religious marriage that her family is extremely unhappy about and his family is warmly overjoyed to witness. But Viv’s mother interferes and pays for him to go away – and Joshua heads off to New York to make his fortune as a jazz musician before their daughter is born. While Viv writes to Joshua’s family to tell them of her daughter’s birth, she later learns they never got her letter – dictated through her older sister.

Viv raises their child – Maggie, whom she calls Bear – in her parents’ home, which is generally a waking nightmare due to their antisemitism, the church’s ever-present and continuous judgement, and her existence as a cast-off wife. With Britain prepared to jump into the War, her parents strongly suggest that Viv send Maggie off to the countryside, where she will be safer. Though she fears separation from her child more than anything in the world, she positions Maggie with the Thompsons, a wealthy couple living in the countryside.

Joshua, meanwhile, has fallen into alcoholic dissolution and a meager life in America that is less than successful. He returns to England and joins the RAF, bonding with his fellow crewmen and beginning to get his life together while learning to fly. Viv, too, joins the war effort and finds work at the post office. There, she again meets Joshua’s younger sister, Rebecca, and the Levinsons learn about Maggie is. Rebecca writes to Joshua, who, upon learning he has a daughter hidden away in the English countryside, immediately begins to formulate a plan to see her while Viv finds succor and family among the Levinsons.

Though Maggie likes her foster family and all they can buy her, she misses her mother. Then a bombing raid passes through her quiet English town and changes everything…

It’s the style of the thing that carries The Lost English Girl through some obvious twists and rote plotting. We’ve seen parts of this – the young couple separated by misunderstanding (and the misunderstanding here is very rote, the sorta stuff that’s facepalm-worthy), and the parent and child who spend years apart due to a misplaced letter. The biggest problem is that Joshua and Viv spend so much time apart, and there’s very little romantic longing or heat between them for the majority of the book (really, it only exists in flashbacks), which splits its attention between Viv’s family life and her love of Maggie, Maggie’s new life in the country, and Josh’s acclimation to life in the RAF.

This is a story about finding friendship, acceptance and tolerance. Maggie gets to break free of her parents’ almost cartoonish levels of evil lockstep behavior, from the church’s judgement and cruelties (Christianity does NOT come off well in this book) and become an independent person; Joshua stays close to his family and finds purpose in the forces. Maggie, meanwhile, both tastes the good life and learns that love is the important thing. All of this is well-handled, and if a bit dry, Kelly’s writing makes the journey interesting. The setting is vividly portrayed and the bombing raids truly frightening. Maggie is sympathetic, and her point of view enjoyable, avoiding the typical treacle of children in World War II novels.

The Lost English Girl isn’t a perfect experience, but does entertain in spite of its flaws.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local bookshop

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Reviewed by Lisa Fernandes

Grade: C+

Book Type: Historical Fiction

Sensuality: Subtle

Review Date : March 6, 2023

Publication Date: 03/2023

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Lisa Fernandes

Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at, follow her on Twitter at or contribute to her Patreon at or her Ko-Fi at
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