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'Pries open secrets'

Updated: Feb 10, 2023

Professor Elinor Accampo, an expert in French social and cultural history at the University of Southern California, USA, reviews 'Yvonne Child of the Somme'

"A labor of love, this book pries open the secrets of a remarkable woman whose past was once shrouded in mystery. The revelations are poignant not just for Yvonne’s many descendants, but for anyone curious about details of everyday life for abandoned children, particularly girls, as they came of age in the early twentieth century. Sara Rowell has conducted meticulous archival research to reconstruct Yvonne’s life as well as the lives of those who surrounded her—her disappeared mother, her caretakers, her employers, her friends, her husband. Where archives leave gaping silences, she delves deeply into the works of historians to provide a richly layered material and social context that walks us through the vibrant streets of cities, towns, and villages, and takes us inside welfare institutions, shops, markets, homes, and into the local catastrophes and trenches of the Great War. Most originally, she draws on this historical context in applying her own creative imagination to portray her subjects’ innermost sensibilities in a compassionate and compelling manner. This engaging account will appeal to readers interested in human survival, particularly in the case of impoverished, single women with no reproductive choices.”

Professor Elinor Accampo, Professor Emerita, Department of History, University of Southern California, August 2022

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