The Only Blue Door

The Only Blue Door

Publisher : JOAN FALLON; Illustrated edition (29 Aug. 2013)
Language : English
Paperback : 428 pages
ISBN-10 : 0957689136
ISBN-13 : 978-0957689138
Dimensions : 13.34 x 2.21 x 20.32 cm

Best seller.
Based on real events.
A gripping read.
A story of courage and endurance.

Imagine you are a twelve-year-old girl; you have a happy life and a family that loves you, then bit by bit your life disintegrates and you find yourself alone, thousands of miles from home.

It is September 1940, Maggie and her young siblings, Grace and Billy, are living in the East End of London with their parents.  Their father has been killed at Dunkirk and their mother goes into hospital to have her fourth child, leaving the children with a neighbour.  In one of the worst bombing raids of the war their home is destroyed and the neighbour is killed. 

Bewildered and frightened, the children wander the streets until they are taken in by some nuns.  But their problems are not over; no-one can trace their mother and, labelled as orphans, they are sent as child migrants to Australia.

The story traces their adventures in their new country, the homesickness, the heartbreak when Billy is separated from his sisters and the loneliness of life in a cold and unfeeling orphanage.  

Eventually the children make new lives for themselves, but Maggie is still convinced that her mother is alive and once she is old enough, begins to search for her.  

This novel is based on the experiences of real people and reflects the attitudes of the day to child migration during and after the Second World War.

The Only Blue Door is a gripping read, shedding light on human tragedies I had never heard of before.

Lonely, frightened and far from home, Maggie and her brother and sister struggle to survive in a strange country.

Now available as an audiobook

The Only Blue Door has received a DISCOVERING DIAMONDS review.
​Family Drama
WWII
Australia

Novel of Excellence

AWARDED A B.R.A.G. HONOUREE MEDALLION

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​It is only two days later that the news arrives. Billy sees him first. He shouts upstairs to tell her. She looks out of the window and watches as the boy leans his bicycle against the post box and wanders along the street looking at the numbers on the doors. When he gets to their own blue door he stops, checks the envelope again and knocks. She feels a tightness in her chest and is unable to move. Irene knows from the moment the boy’s knuckles rap on her door that this marks the end of one life and the start of another. They will all remember that sound for a long time to come. She does not run to see is it good news or bad; her legs will not move. She lets Billy open the door and take the yellow envelope. She hears the voice of a young man, high and reedy.
‘Mrs Smith?’
‘Yes, that’s my Mum.’
‘Mrs Ronald Smith?’
‘Yes.’
‘OK son, give this to yer mum.’
She hears the door close and the sound of Billy’s feet running down the passage.
‘Mum, it’s a telegram,’ he cries, waving it in the air.
‘Maybe it’s to say Dad’s coming home,’ suggests Maggie.
She has Grace on her lap and is brushing her hair.
‘Thank you darling,’ Irene says.
She takes the envelope from him and slips it into the pocket of her apron.
‘Come on Mum. Aren’t you going to open it?’
‘Yes, open it, Mum.’
She looks at the fresh, hopeful faces of her children and the tears begin to form in her eyes. She pulls out the standard yellow envelope and holds it against her cheek. The only other telegram she has ever received was on the day of their wedding; Ronnie’s aunt May had sent it. ‘To wish you a long and happy married life,’ it said.
‘Mum.’
Maggie is hopping from foot to foot in anticipation.
Carefully Irene takes out a knife from the kitchen drawer and slides it under the fold of the telegram. She can sense the children’s eyes on her. She pulls out the folded paper and opens it.
‘WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU …’
The words stab at her heart as she tries to focus. The uniform printed letters dance in front of her eyes; she can hardly make out what they say.
‘WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT PRIVATE RONALD BRUCE SMITH HAS BEEN KILLED IN ACTION …’
She struggles for breath. Her heart is banging so loudly she cannot hear what her children are saying. She thinks she will collapse.
‘What’s it say Mum?’
‘Is he coming home? Is Dad coming home?’
‘Mummy. What’s it say?’
‘What’s the matter Mum? Mum? Is it about Dad?’
Irene lets out a long, agonised moan. Her legs give way under her and she grabs at the edge of the table to steady herself.
‘What’s the matter Mum?’
‘Mummy, why are you crying?’
No, not her Ronnie, it can’t be her Ronnie. Please God, let it be a mistake. But deep inside she knows it is no mistake. She looks at the anxious faces of her children; she has to be strong for them. She has to give them an answer.
‘No darlings, Daddy’s not coming home.’
The words are barely a whisper. She cannot hold back the tears.
‘Don’t cry Mummy,’ says Grace, clinging to her mother’s leg. ‘Don’t cry.’
The children crowd round her, each trying to comfort her in their own way. Maggie pulls out a chair so she can sit down. Billy anxiously pats her hand and Grace climbs up onto her knee and puts her podgy arms around her mother’s neck.
‘Does he have to go to another war now?’ asks Billy.
There is a lump in her throat that threatens to choke her; she swallows hard and says:
‘No, darling, he’s not going to go to any more wars, ever again.’
‘So he can come home then,’ says Billy, with a little skip of pleasure.
Maggie picks up the telegram from the table.
‘No, silly, he’s not ever coming home again. He’s been killed. Killed in action.’
She flings down the telegram and runs from the room.
‘Maggie …’
Irene does not have the strength to go after her daughter. She hugs her other children to her, rocking them back and forth like she used to do when they were babies. Billy is quiet now. Grace is crying. She tries to comfort them but she does not know what to say. What can she say? It just is not fair. Ronnie was a good man, a kind man; he was her husband. He was too young to die. And they are all too young to live without him. This bloody war. It is so unfair.

La única puerta azul
SPANISH
PORTUGUESE

5* reviews

Outstanding human drama

The Only Blue Door is tells the story of how a close-knit family is torn apart by war.

The Only Blue Door is well-researched, highlighting an aspect of history I had never heard of before, namely that of children sent on their own as migrants to Australia

Ms. Fallon does not talk about the events of WWII in regards to battle, or the soldiers that I would typically read when looking into the era. She takes on the challenge of what the plight of children was in the war torn world at that time.

Despite a backdrop of adversity, the enduring strength of the human spirit reflected by the central characters gave the book an uplifting feel. I found this book captivating.

A brilliant read
I loved it ! I loved the way each chapter was about a different character in the story and how the whole story linked together. I started the book and could not put it down as I was dying to see what happened to each person and how it would all end. A great story and I have recommended to friends to read it also.

One day in 2014, I came across a short article about how children were sent to the British colonies as child migrants were now returning to the UK in an attempt to trace their families. I was both amazed at what I read and inspired to write a fictional version of events. This is the background to my novel THE ONLY BLUE DOOR.

Because children were young and malleable they were seen as the best category of immigrant – easy to assimilate , more adaptable and with a long working life ahead of them. The British Dominions loved them.
Something that only came to light a few years ago was the fact that thousands of children had been sent as child migrants to countries such as Australia and Canada from Britain and never knew their own parents. A social worker called Margaret Humphreys stumbled on this by accident in 1986, when a former child migrant asked her for assistance in locating her relatives. She has since formed the Child Migrant Trust and subsequently helped many people to be reunited with their families.
Throughout the late 19th century thousands of children were routinely sent out to the overseas British Dominions to start new lives, and this continued during the 20th century until as late as the 1960s. They were taken from orphanages run by religious and charitable institutions and despatched to Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Some were as young as four and five; others were teenagers. Most of the children came from deprived backgrounds and it was considered to be for their own good that they were plucked from poverty and sent to a country where there was good food and new opportunities for them. The receiving countries welcomed them – they needed people and children were so much easier to mould into their way of life than adults.
So when World War II broke out in 1939 there was already a precedent for sending children abroad to start new lives. June 1940 saw the start of heavy bombing raids across London and, with the threat of an enemy invasion becoming more and more real, it was then that the British government decided to set up the Children’s Overseas Reception Board to send children, whose parents could not afford to send them to safety, to the Dominions. They enlisted help from charities with experience of child migration, such as the Barnado’s Homes, Fairbridge Farm Schools, the Salvation Army and the Catholic Church. However the plan was not warmly received by everyone – Winston Churchil thought it was a defeatist move and others warned of the disruption it would cause to families. Nevertheless within two weeks CORB had received over 200,000 applications from parents who wanted to send their children to safety. Parents often volunteered the names of relatives or friends who would look after the children in their new country and homes were found for the others by CORB representatives or the charities.
In the first few months CORB despatched over three thousand children to the Dominions. Then tragedy struck. All shipping traffic was subject to attacks from German U-boats and on 17th September 1940, the City of Benares, sailing from Liverpool for Canada with 197 passengers on board, was torpedoed and sunk in the Atlantic. Ninety of the passengers were children. It was a dreadful night, gale-force winds and driving rain – 131 of the crew and 134 passengers killed, among them seventy CORB children. The reaction in Britain was one of horror and recrimination. It had already been suggested that it was too risky to send children overseas during the war now the sceptics had been proved correct. It was decided that no more children were to be sent to the Domninions unless their ship was in a protective convoy. As there were not enough ships to use in the convoys that meant the end of the Sea Evacuee scheme. The children had to take their chance in Britain. Unlike other child migrants, most of the sea evacuees returned to Britain once the war was over. But child migration continued until 1967 when the last nine children were sent to Australia by the Barnado’s Homes charity.
In my novel ‘The Only Blue Door’, the three children are sent to Australia under the CORB scheme in one of the last ships to take sea evacuees to the Dominions. Unlike the other CORB children they are sent from an orphanage which had taken them in, believing them to be orphans.

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