The Orphan Sisters
A heartbreaking, unputdownable and utterly unforgettable story of two young sisters cruelly abandoned by their mother at an orphanage. Fans of Wives of War, Lisa Wingate and Diney Costeloe will lose their hearts to this stunning World War Two novel.
1929: Four-year-old Etty and eight-year-old Dorothy are abandoned at Blakely Hall orphanage by their mother, never to see her again. With no other family to speak of, the sisters worship their beloved mam – and they are confused and heartbroken to be deserted by her when they need her the most.
1940: Etty and Dorothy are finally released from the confines of Blakely Hall – but their freedom comes when the country is in the grip of World War Two and its terrors. Amidst a devastating backdrop of screaming air-raid sirens and cold nights huddled in shelters, the sisters are desperate to put their broken childhoods behind them.
But trouble lies ahead. Dorothy must bid goodbye to her beloved husband when he’s sent to war and Etty must nurse a broken heart as she falls in love with the one man she can never be with.
Etty and Dorothy survived the orphanage with the help of one another and neither sister can forget the awful betrayal of their mother, which has haunted them their whole lives. But when a shocking secret about their painful childhood comes to light, will the sisters ever be the same again?
In 1929, four year old Esther and eight year old, Dorothy were told by their mother that they would be going to a special place. Esther was excited to ride in the tramcar while Dorothy was less excited about their trip. Arriving at Blakely Hall, an asylum for orphaned children run by Mrs Knowles, was to be the girls’ new home until they turned fifteen. Esther, being so young, could not understand why their mother had abandoned them, but Esther knew that she could endure anything as long as Dorothy was by her side. The orphanage was not a nice place and Mrs Knowles ran the asylum with an iron fist. Esther learned to toughen up and harden her heart just to make it through until she could finally leave.
Now that both sisters are out of the orphanage, times are getting a lot harder especially since war is on the horizon. Both Esther and Dorothy find themselves, for the first time in years, learning how to live on their own always vowing to stay together and in the back of their mind, always wondering why their mother left them. Their journey takes them through love, loss, and the atrocities of war as they each find themselves and learn what they are both capable of becoming.
The Orphan Sisters is a beautifully moving story and I found myself invested in both Esther and Dorothy’s lives right from the beginning. Esther is definitely the defiant one who questions everything. She goes after what she wants and is determined to make a difference in the war. Her sister, Dorothy, is the the nurturer. She is content with her life and seems to be more of the peacemaker and takes things as they come. Esther and Dorothy could be no more different than night and day, but the love that they had for each other is so touching and heartfelt. Esther and Dorothy are fleshed out characters that I could not help feeling for and wanting good things to come to both of them especially during a war where people were losing their lives and family members.
Shirley Dickson really shines light on what it must have been like during World War II and how fearful people had become especially with nightly raids and air horns blowing constantly. But on the same token, Dickson shows that war can not break someone’s spirit and that people can persevere during trying times. Esther and Dorothy lived life to the fullest – falling in love, experience heartache, making friends, losing people they loved. The Orphan sisters embraced life and everything that comes along with it.
I am so shocked that The Orphan Sisters is Shirley Dickson’s debut novel. It feels as if Dickson has been writing forever and she has a backlog of bestsellers under her belt. Dickson puts so much heart into this story and it shows. She will pull you in with her writing and never let go even after the last page is read.
The Orphan Sisters left me completely breathless. It is a heartbreaking tale that at times brought me to tears. This is truly a remarkable and outstanding story and I can honestly say this is and will be my top read of the year. There are not enough of stars available to give this book, that’s how good it is. Shirley Dickson has acquired a new fan. If you love stories set during World War II, then I urge you to pick up a copy and immerse yourself in a wonderfully written unputdownable book.
About the author
Shirley Dickson lives under the big skies of Northumberland with her husband, family and lucky black cat.
She wrote her first short story at the age of ten for a magazine competition. She didn’t win but was hooked on writing for a lifetime. For many years she wrote poetry and short stories and got many rejection slips. Shirley decided to get serious about writing novels when she retired and signed with Bookouture in 2018 for a two-book deal. She has written two stirring World War Two historical novels.
Shirley says she is a prime example of ‘never give up on your dream.’