It is 1968. Nine-year-old Lucy Butler, a lonely child, is the daughter of a GP in London's Kentish Town. When Lucy encounters the huge, boisterous Valentine family, from the big house up the road, she is instantly enthralled. Throughout that summer, she longs to be one of those eight children with their famous liberal parents, their streetwise confidence and wonderful freedom. How much it contracts with her onw, narrow-minded and over-protective family!
Over the weeks, Lucy forges an intense friendship with the two Valentine sisters, Vita and Perdita. With then she tastes excitement and a new way of looking at the world and its rules. On the surface it is perfect; the Valentines are the ideal. Yes odd things happen. The housekeeper's manner unnerves her; strange behaviour is never explained. And why does everyone dislike the housekeeper's son so much?
Then it is over. A child dies. Lucy's father is blamed. The Butlers move away, and contact is lost.
Over twenty-five years later, Lucy is now married and trying to have a baby. Her younger brother is terminally ill. When she comes across Vita Valentine again, her memories of that childhood summer are stirred. Slowly they sharpen and fall into place. But parts of the picture are still blurred. When her brother asks her to repeat an act she carried out as a child, the terrible truth of what really happened that year is finally revealed. But worse than that when Lucy discovers the background to those events, she learns that the bewitching family she had idealized as a child, was, in fact, a harrowing place where abuse and wanton cruelty were taken for granted.
This is the story of life and death, of how children survive or don't survive in families. It is about the power of adults, the vulnerability of children, and what happens when the children's voices are ignored.
'It is impossible to read The Cry of the Children without being moved.' Times Literary Supplement
'A compelling story, straightforwardly told, and ultimately very rewarding.' Nina Bawden