This review is taken from Stand 239, 21(3) October - December 2023.

JON GILBERT Review
Liz Berry The Home Child (Chatto & Windus, 2023)

Liz Berry’s The Home Child is a ‘novel in verse’ and tells the imagined story of Berry’s great aunt, Eliza Showell, an orphan sent from her home in the Black Country to Nova Scotia in Canada as part of the Home Children Scheme, on the pretext of being given a better life. Eliza is sent to the McPhail’s farm to become a domestic servant. This imagined tale contains shades of what was true for the thousands of children who were sent from the UK to Canada, mainly from impoverished backgrounds, to a life of servitude. Unfortunately, Eliza’s story – like so many others – is one which has not been given a voice. Berry’s book provides one moulded from her own imaginings and the stories of surviving Home Children and their relatives.

Berry’s previous collection, Black Country, explored her relationship to her home and her dialect. Similar concerns run through The Home Child which displays the same use of Black Country dialect throughout. Eliza’s dialect provides her with a continuing relationship with home (wum) and serves as a marker for her lost roots. Her dialect, though repressed throughout, becomes an anchor to her home, her mother, and her sense of self. She returns to it at times of defiance and strength, at one point, in the poem ‘Mom’, turning it into a mantra: ‘I say er name […]like a song, Mom, mom,  til it turns to wum’.

Despite these acts of linguistic resistance, Eliza is still written over ...
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