Family Likeness by Caitlin Davies

Day 20  and in fiction: #FamilyLikeness by Caitlin Davies

In a small Kent town in the 1950s, a bewildered little girl is growing up. Ostracised because of her colour, she tries her best to fit in, but nobody wants anything to do with her.

A nanny climbs the steps of a smart London address. She’s convinced that her connection to the family behind the door is more than professional.

And on the walls of an English stately home, amongst the family portraits, hangs an eighteenth-century oil painting of a mysterious black woman in a silk gown.

In ways both poignant and unexpected, the three lives are intertwined in a heartbreaking story of prejudice and motherless children, of chances missed, of war time secrets and the search for belonging…

In an interview with author, Wendy Wallace, Caitlin was asked how painful it was to write about racism in the 1950s:

It wasn’t so much painful to write but it was harrowing researching Muriel’s story, reading recollections from people who grew up in children’s homes and talking to those who had backgrounds similar to hers. One woman told me that as a child she often wished she were dead; I never forgot that.

I really enjoyed reading this novel because it featured an older care experienced person not the sort of character you see very often in literature. People who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s often couldn’t wait to leave the institutional system behind them and some never told anyone about their care experiences, including family members if they went on to get married and have children. Family Likeness captures the trauma of the past and secrecy of the present as well as the stigma attached to both unmarried mothers and the racism of the era.


Family Likeness was published by Windmill Books.



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