Genevieve Graham’s previous book, The Forgotten Home Child, blew me away with its story that wove lesser-known parts of Canadian history with sympathetic characters I couldn’t help but root for. It was my favourite book of Graham’s — until now.
I was immediately intrigued by Graham’s upcoming book, Letters Across the Sea, because part of it is set in a Toronto neighbourhood close to where my Mom grew up. Along with a few Ontario locations many readers will recognize, Graham has written a story that spans the effects of the Great Depression, the simmering and often blatant anti-Semitism in 1930’s Toronto, and a look at a group of Canadian soldiers who were sent into WWII not properly trained and vastly outnumbered by their ruthless counterparts. Through the point of view of Molly, an Irish Protestant teen, and Max, her Jewish neighbour, Graham puts a face to the growing racial tensions that were rife in Toronto in the 1930’s, leading to Canada’s largest ethnic-based violent event in Canadian history – the Christie Pits Riot.
With her detailed research, Graham also unearths a part of Canadian history that I knew nothing about – the Canadian soldiers who fought in the Battle of Hong Kong. With building tension and an unflinching look at barbaric the realities of war, Graham gives readers a sobering look at this group of Canadian soldiers. Some of these soldiers gave their lives in combat, others endured years of horrific treatment in Japanese POW camps, and the remaining returned home only to learn that all their sacrifices would be ignored by their government and fellow Canadians.
Letters Across the Sea is a sobering blend of history, humanity, courage, and hope. By weaving poignant story lines with historical facts, Graham educates her readers about lesser-known parts of Canadian history while bringing a human perspective to those darker times that we should never forget. As the proud granddaughter of an Orangeman who was a soldier in the Irish Regiment of Toronto, I want to thank the author for highlighting the heroism of a group of Canadian soldiers that the textbooks, the Canadian government, and the Canadian people have sadly and shamefully forgot. Genevieve, thank you for giving them a voice.
Be one of the first people to put this book on hold! Letters Across the Sea can now be requested at WPL for its April 27, 2021 publication date.
— Laurie P.