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The Secret Children [Paperback]

Alison McQueen
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

16 Aug 2012

Assam, 1925. James MacDonald is one of the sons of empire who has no yearning for England. Running a tea plantation, he loves India and is reluctant to choose a British bride from the eager crowds sent over. But when he takes a beautiful young Indian woman as his courtesan, he can little imagine what he has begun.

So starts the story of Mary and Serafina. Born of two worlds, accepted by neither. Growing up beloved but hidden away, their childhood is one of contradiction. It is only as the shadow of war falls and the turmoil of Indian partition begins, that the girls must face the truth about their parents and begin the search for somewhere to belong.

It will be a journey full of forbidden questions, hidden answers, heartbreak and determination. As Serafina and Mary grow into women, they must risk everything and make choices with a legacy that will last a lifetime, and beyond.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (16 Aug 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1409135519
  • ISBN-13: 978-1409135517
  • Product Dimensions: 2.9 x 13.1 x 20.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 235,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in the sixties to an Indian mother and an English jazz musician father, Alison McQueen grew up in London and worked in advertising for twenty years before retiring to write full time. In 2006 she was selected from an impressive longlist to join The Writers' Circle - a group of 8 top writers chosen to be groomed by the UK film industry as the new generation of British screenwriters. An award-winning blogger, she is also the author of a series of popular novels (published by Macmillan) under a pseudonym. Alison lives in a quiet English village with her husband and two daughters. Her novel, The Secret Children, was selected by The Independent for their alternative 2012 Booker list.

Product Description


A vivid tale inspired by the author's own family history. (EASY LIVING 2012-02-01)

touching novel about the the need to belong and find one's place in the world, and a portrait of a country and a society during a period of upheaval and change. (GOOD BOOK GUIDE 2012-04-01)

This is a wonderful novel. A page-turner that is gripping, sensitive and thought-provoking. Highly recommended. (HISTORIAL NOVELS SOCIETY 2012-05-14) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

In 1920s India, where do two little girls belong? Born of two cultures, belonging to neither...

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book - highly recommended 8 Feb 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I could hardly put this book down, as it was so intriguing. It's a sad tale, and paints a portrait of how life was in India before and during its independence and partition.
Particularly, it is the tale of the two girls who were born to an Indian mother and English father in the 1920's. It tells of the problems and the apparent impossibility of them and their parents becoming a family. I would like to think that things are very much different now, although in this case the differences in background and life experience between the man and woman were so vast that they would have no meeting ground except the obvious. The man behaved in a very unfair and unthinking way. When the children were born, he realised his folly, but of course, it was too late. He regretted it for the rest of his life.
The story begins with the daughter of one of the girls at her mother's funeral in England, with her aunt, who is the sister of the deceased. The aunt tells the story for the first time, having promised her sister she never would tell anyone, as long as they both should live.
I cannot really say much more without giving away too much of the content. I think this is really a worthwhile and absorbing book, and appears to reveal a deep understanding of how things were and are. I have never been to India so it is hard for me to know how true it all is, but I feel that it is so, as I have heard tales of India from people who have lived there in the past.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Petra "I love to read" TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Secret Sisters by Alison McQueen is a book which I highly recommend to all readers of fiction though this book was based on the authors own family history. James McDonald the sister's father ran a tea plantation but he lived a lonely life so he bought a young beautiful girl as a concubine not realising what he was starting when he did this. He thought he was doing no harm by doing this, he actually thought he was saving this girl from a life of poverty. This started a wonderful story which the author showed the reader not only the beauty of the country but also the beauty of the people who inhabited this land which held so many different customs and beliefs which the author showed the reader so well.
Alison McQueen is an author who clearly loves India and its people and this was clear to the reader through her story telling. She painted a vivid picture using her words and I loved every page which I read. The story she told was a heart wrenching one and she told it sympathetically not only towards the sisters Serafina and Mary but also their mother and the servants that served them daily. I loved the way the author opened up the customs of India and through her words I got a clearer understanding to the ways of the people especially towards their beliefs and fears of the unknown.
With each turn of the page I just wanted happiness for the girls but they spent their lives being controlled by those around them. They accepted each stage of their lives without complaint and did what was asked of them without questioning why they were sent with each new stage of their lives.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, touching and heartbreaking 30 Jan 2012
I just finished this book after receiving it a few days ago and am utterly blown away. The novel is gripping, emotional and beautifully written. I found myself weeping on more than one occasion at this truly touching story. I was dubious at first, wondering how easy the story would be able to get into with it being set in 1920's India but after the first few chapters I was hooked. The characters' journeys are beautifully intertwined and I felt a deep connection to them by the end of the story. Mary and Serafina's journey is a complex and heartbreaking one and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. A highly recommended read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read 26 Mar 2014
By Sallee
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading this book very much. Having lived on a tea estate in Assam and heard stories of planters in the past having secret liaisons with local Indian women it was interesting to hear a personal story.
However I am intrigued as to where these two girls were actually born since the Doon Valley is NOT in Assam as the book suggests but in the foothills of the Himalayas west of Nepal and many many miles west of Assam. Assam is north east of Bangladesh and there the tea is grown mostly on the plains (at sea level) and not in the hills contrary to popular belief. Haflong is in Assam however and the journey from the Haflong to the Doon Valley to for the school holidays would have been very long!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly enjoyable read 19 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Well written, the descriptions of life in colonial India for children born into a mixed race family are enthralling. Attitudes of the British ruling class to indigenous people of the continent were disgraceful and yet were universally accepted at the time.
One couldn't help but feel for the plight of the children and the sad demise of the mother who fades into obscurity as the story unfolds.
I admired the tenacity of each of the sisters who dealt with their lot in life in different ways as befits differing characters.
This is an amazing book more so because it is mostly a true story. I loved all the characters, flaws and all. They are humans with hopes and dreams just like we all do
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic reading
A beautiful story, even more interesting when you learn there's a true story at the origin, from colonial India to Britain today.
Published 3 months ago by masson
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but tedious
I am still ploughing through this book. It is a lovely, sometimes sad, sometimes funny story of two sisters whose parents are from totally different cultures and standards. Read more
Published 3 months ago by A. Norman
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of two worlds.
I found this book both touching and totally absorbing. Alison McQueen's story of two sisters is a series of stark contrasts; rich and poor, white and Indian, privilege and... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Bookie
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read before my planned visit to India
This book is a very interesting view of life for children from mixed race parents in India. It was also a very good read.
Published 8 months ago by eileen monica nichols
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written
This book was recommended by a friend with whom I had been to India and Bangladesh. She knew I would love it and she was right. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Marlene Wylde
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling story and well written
Really enjoyed this (having known very little about the background to the book - which is based on a true story)

Moving, well written and definitely worth reading.
Published 9 months ago by CAROLINE
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read
This book was a fabulous read, I could hardly put it down. At the end, you read a bit about the Author and realise that its almost biographical. Would highly recommend.
Published 10 months ago by Part Time Sally
3.0 out of 5 stars Sadly, I wasn't blown away... (SPOILERS)
I read about this in a magazine and thought it would be perfect for our book club read. So, it was chosen and I set about reading it with great anticipation. Read more
Published 18 months ago by C. Rucroft
3.0 out of 5 stars Secrets from India
Touchingly lovely tale which starts in India in the 1920s and spans 80 years of the lives of two children born to an Indian servant and a wealthy English landowner and tea... Read more
Published 20 months ago by BusyReader
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful book
I really enjoyed this book. It says much about the British people out in India before 1948. The story of the 2 children was very

sad but made very interesting reading. Read more
Published 22 months ago by M. T. Leigh
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