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Review : The Attic Child by Lola Jaye

I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts about The Attic Child by Lola Jaye.

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book cover for The Attic Child by Lola Jaye.  The cover has an orange background with the silhouette of a  child in purple
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Macmillan; Main Market edition (28 April 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 480 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1529064562
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1529064568

1907: Twelve-year-old Celestine spends most of his time locked in an attic room of a large house by the sea. Taken from his homeland and treated as an unpaid servant, he dreams of his family in Africa even if, as the years pass, he struggles to remember his mother’s face, and sometimes his real name . . .

Decades later, Lowra, a young orphan girl born into wealth and privilege, will find herself banished to the same attic. Lying under the floorboards of the room is an old porcelain doll, an unusual beaded claw necklace and, most curiously, a sentence etched on the wall behind an old cupboard, written in an unidentifiable language. Artefacts that will offer her a strange kind of comfort, and lead her to believe that she was not the first child to be imprisoned there . . .

Book Review

I bought The Attic Child at the end of April after seeing a tweet from Lola Jaye about her inspiration.  I’m so glad I did!   

Although it’s not Ndugu M’Hali’s personal story, this did happen to countless other children (and if you watched the recent documentary ‘The Real Mo Farah,’ the selling of children isn’t something that only happened in the distant past).

By the time 9 year old Dikembe reaches the ship in 1903 I was emotionally invested in him and fearful of what the future would hold. 

Once he arrives in London, we switch to 1993 and Lowra’s narration.

Dikembe’s narration takes us through his life in England and had me on tenterhooks throughout.

His confusion felt so real – heart sore at missing his family and village but in the beginning, enjoying the new experiences and the trappings that come with being Sir Richard Babbington’s ‘social experiment.’  It’s not a protected or stable existence though.  Changes happen and force him to find a way through.

Resourceful, focussed and successful in his public life (even with events conspiring against him) I was so hoping he would find joy, peace and a place to belong.  Yes, in one way his experiences motivate him to be the best that he can be but those experiences also have a negative effect.  He doesn’t love himself and doesn’t expect love from others.

Lowra’s narration and the subsequent quest to find out more about the items found under the floorboards is just as harrowing. 

Both are hard hitting with scenes that tug at your gut.  Yes, I cried. And in all honesty, at times I felt uncomfortable.  I do enjoy being taken out of my comfort zone … fiction can be much more than entertainment can’t it! 

The Attic Child is an important story.  It converts facts and figures into emotions so that we can remember and learn.

Recommended not just for historical fiction readers but for everyone.

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Lola Jaye is an author, registered psychotherapist and speaker who has penned six novels and a self-help book.

She was born and raised in London, England and has lived in Nigeria and the United States. She currently works as a psychotherapist. She has written for, CNN, HuffPost, Essence and the BBC and also speaks on issues of mental health and racism. She has also appeared on national television, most recently discussing Covid 19 and mental wellbeing. Lola once gave a presentation on imposter syndrome – a subject close to her heart, because at times she’s unable to believe she’s an actual writer!

The Attic Child (Macmillan) is her first epic historical novel.


Twitter @LolaJaye

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