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Wednesday 24 March 2021

Review: The Valley of Lost Secrets

The Valley of Lost Secrets is a marvellous debut novel by Lesley Parr set in late 1939. 

English children are travelling out of London to the safety of the countryside, to be billeted with families for the duration of the war.

Jimmy and his little brother Ronnie are amongst a group from the same school that end up in Wales. They are taken in by a childless couple, Gwen Thomas and her collier husband, Alun. Jimmy’s best friend Duff and his sister are both taken in by the Vicar, and Florence, a girl Jimmy thought no one would want because of her dirt and smell, is chosen by the shopkeeper, who has a son of her own.

Ronnie easily adapts to his new environment in the valley. But Jimmy is unresponsive.


Resentful at having to leave his Nan and Dad and all that’s familiar, he just can’t or won’t fit in. He distances himself from the friendliness the other children have formed with his brother.

There is active spite in the village against the Thomases, and Jimmy can’t discover why.

While Jimmy is wandering and feeling sorry for himself, he finds a human skull in the hollow of a tree. Who put it there? Who does it belong to? Questions fill his head. He wants to share his find with Duff, but something between them has broken, as Duff has joined the bully gang whose leader is Jack, the Vicar’s son.

Gossip flows when the collection money from St Michael’s goes missing. Evacuees are blamed. It worsens when the Red Cross tin also disappears.

Duff is not the only one changed by the evacuation. Florence is now clean and confident. She has been taken into a family and shown love and interest, something unavailable in a home filled with poverty and too many siblings. Jimmy finds this new Florence intelligent and he warms to her after shamefully insulting her.

He finds he can trust Florence, so he shares the skull secret with her and Ronnie. They agree to try and find information on how to identify the skull and how long it has been there. Could it have been a murder?

The bullies kidnap and beat Ronnie in order to find out what Jimmy is hiding. Secrets hidden for years in the Thomas family are shared. A string of events take place and links to a chain are joined.

This is a well-constructed mystery, with a most enjoyable and interesting storyline that contains lots of diverting paths that join up beautifully.

Title: The Valley of Lost Secrets
Author: Lesley Parr
Illustrator: David Dean
Publisher: Bloomsbury, $ 14.99
Publication Date: 2 February 2021
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781526620521
For ages: 10+
Type: Historical Fiction