A New Day

Written by Beryl Matthews
Review by Waheed Rabbani

Two young English siblings, Hanna and Jack Foster, are put into a London orphanage upon the death of their parents. In 1938, lying about his age, 15-year-old Jack joins the merchant navy to run away from the Talbots, the family who had taken him in. They had wanted a strong lad to slave in their greengrocery business, and during the year Jack was with them, he “was worked from dawn to dusk and thrashed often” by Talbot.

While Hanna agrees with Jack’s decision, she is apprehensive that Talbot might balk, for he wished to adopt Jack. While Jack is on the high seas, Talbot appears at the orphanage demanding to know where Jack is. When Hanna doesn’t tell, he grabs her roughly but leaves after she threatens to call the police.

Hanna leaves the orphanage to work as a nanny for a rich lady, Jane. Soon Talbot tracks her down and arrives with Alan, a policeman. After determining the facts, Alan advises Talbot that there is no case, for he hadn’t adopted Jack. Talbot is furious and threatens to report Alan to his superiors. Alan falls in love with Hanna.

The war starts in 1939, and with the considerable buildup of conflict and romance to this point, one would have expected that a thrilling historical romance plot — as noted on the cover — would follow. However, Jane and most other characters are extremely kind to Hanna and Jack; the antagonist, Talbot, doesn’t appear again. While some of World War II’s major events are mentioned, the battle scenes are narrated only briefly. The love story feels lukewarm and moves to a predictable ending, although life in England during the war years is well covered.