The Secret Book of Flora Lea [Book Review] #historicalfiction #mystery

The Secret Book of Flora Lea is the story of two children sent out of London to the countryside during WWII.

The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry

The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry (cover) Image: white text over a green rolling landscape with a river running through it

Genre/Categories/Setting: Historical Fiction, WWII, Mystery, English Countryside

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My Summary of The Secret Book of Flora Lea:

Thanks #NetGalley @AtriaBooks for a complimentary e ARC of #TheSecretBookOfFloraLea upon my request. All opinions are my own.

The power of storytelling and imagination…

In 1939, Operation Pied Piper moved children from London to the English countryside to protect them from aerial bombings. Fourteen-year-old Hazel and five-year-old Flora are placed with a kind woman and her teenage son near the river Thames. Hazel entertains her young sister with walks, games, and invented stories. One of the stories is a fairy tale set in a magical land. One day, a tragedy occurs, and Flora vanishes near the banks of the river. It is presumed that she drowned, and Hazel carries the guilt into her adulthood. In 1960, Hazel works at a rare books bookstore and receives a strange package in the mail. It’s a story called Whisperwood and the River of Stars….the story she made up twenty years ago for her sister. Since she never told anyone else about the story, Hazel wonders if this could be a clue to her sister’s disappearance. Who wrote this story? Is her sister still alive? Is this a cruel joke? Hazel embarks on a quest to find answers.

My Thoughts:

Powerful and Poignant Themes

One of the most heartfelt themes in this compelling story involves sisters: the loyalty, the responsibility, the bond, the grief, the guilt. If you’ve ever been responsible for a younger sister, you will empathize with Hazel as she searches for the truth.

An additional poignant theme is the power of storytelling in helping children face loneliness and difficult circumstances. If you are a parent, have you told your child a story to help them through a difficult time? My husband is the master storyteller in our family!

A powerful theme that drives the action of the story is the importance of finding answers. A missing child certainly would be a life-consuming quest. Do you think that even a difficult answer is better than no answer?

Page-Turning Mystery

If you prefer your historical fiction with a generous side of page-turning mystery, you will enjoy The Secret Book of Flora Lea. The author is a master storyteller and weaves the timelines together without pulling you out of the story and the plot twist will surprise you.

Recommending The Secret Book of Flora Lea

I’m enthusiastically recommending The Secret Book of Flora Lea for fans of a unique WWII story, for histfic readers who appreciate a side of mystery, and for book clubs.

Content Consideration: a missing child, grief, guilt

Related: Also by Patti Callahan Henry: Surviving Savannah, Becoming Mrs. Lewis. Another heartfelt story about children leaving London for the countryside during WWII is A Place To Hang the Moon.

My Rating:  4  Stars


The Secret Book of Flora Lea bby Patti Callahan Henry (cover) Image: white text over a grass covered landscape with a river running through it

More Information Here

Meet the Author of The Secret Book of Flora Lea, Patti Callahan Henry

Author Patti Callahan

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling novelist of fifteen novels, including the historical fiction (writing as Patti Callahan) BECOMING MRS. LEWIS—The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis. In addition, she is the recipient of The Christy Award—A 2019 Winner “Book of the Year.” ; The Harper Lee Distinguished Writer of the Year for 2020 and the Alabama Library Association Book of the Year for 2019, and the RNA UK finalist for Romantic Historical Fiction.

A full-time author and mother of three children, she now resides in both Mountain Brook, Alabama, and Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband.


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  1. Wonderful review, Carol. I had a younger brother by 7 years, and I was responsible for him a lot, so I get that. Having said that, if he had disappeared on my watch, it would have been devastating. I really like the sound of this one.

  2. I’m on the waitlist for this one at the public library. I enjoy watching “Friends and Fiction” on Facebook Live on Wednesdays at 7pm Eastern. Patti Callahan Henry is one of the four authors who host the group. Last night’s episode was about her new book. It really sounds good!

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