Welcome to Gail Hamilton's Website
Gailís stories have delighted readers around the world but her home is beautiful Prince Edward County, a long-fingered island nestled in Lake Ontario, Canada. She shares the farm where she was raised with philosophical red cattle, coyotes, beaver, deer, red cedars, and theatrical kildeers. Sheís lived in the heart of the city too, including Toronto, Paris and London, and on the strength of a classified ad, once rode a white Bedford truck named "George" across the Sahara to visit Timbuctu.
Almost forgotten stories intrigue Gail, ones with just a corner poking out of the fog of history. When she discovered that thousands of orphaned or destitute youngsters had been shipped out of Britain to Canada, thrown upon a strange land to shape what new lives they could, yet so little was known about them, she wondered why.
Of course, these tantalizing glimpses from the past are only a starting point. It wouldnít be one of Gailís stories if it didnít immediately fill up with romance, intrigue, adventure and an intensely imaginative exploration of what drove ordinary folks, with extraordinary spirit, to bolt the traces and gamble their all on a rough-hewn newborn nation they knew almost nothing about.
The Tomorrow Country
A new breed battles to trade Britain at her peak for an infant nation
struggling to hack itself from the wilderness
A Rousing Historical Novel about Canadians-in-the-Making
This lively ride through the social upheavals of England in the 1870s begins with a newborn baby, abandoned in a gutter, stubbornly refusing to die. As little Katie becomes another street child in a part of London where few reach their 20th birthday, her plight moves Amelia Radmore to create a scheme giving destitute youngsters new lives in Canada as part of the nascent Home Children movement. Amelia, a genteel, sheltered radical, little guesses that her unconventional fundraising efforts will trigger a fierce battle of ambitions stretching from the lowest criminal dives into the path of the Prince of Wales himself.
Strawberry Rose, raising money for Amelia, seizes the chance to take London by storm as a dazzling musical sensation. Red Nell, a powerful underworld potentate, sets out to fleece Ameliaís charity. Nouveau riche Louisa Crisp sponsors Amelia in a desperate bid to social climb way out of her league. Her sons, Adam and Henry, each obsessed with Rose, soon find themselves at each otherís throats. While Amelia faces shattering revelations about the nature of married life, Rose discovers just how horrifying a price she must pay for success and true love when Bertie, Prince of Wales, steps lustily into the mix, eyeing her for himself.
Through it all, young Katie joins fellow cast-offs in a clawing struggle to stay alive in a hostile world. Will is a chimney sweepís climbing boy, Cully, the rickety survivor of a basket-making sweatshop, and Laura the pampered but illegitimate darling of an Elizabethan manor tossed out by grasping relatives. Amelia remains their only hope.
From this turmoil emerges a new breed longing to throw off the constraints of the Old World and reach for the freedom of the New. They become Canadians-in-the-making, ready to trade England at the peak of her powers for a wild risk on an infant Canada. The only question for kids and grownups alike is will they ever win their chance at this daring dream.
Check out the Cast of Characters
I enjoyed this book so much I had to hop out of bed before dawn just to finish it.
ďI loved The Tomorrow Country. Itís a gripping, dramatic read from start to finish. It tells the story of four very different children thrown onto the trash-heaps of 1870s London and fighting to survive them, a young woman risking her way up the steps of societyís ladder as a salon singer while fighting off suitors and navigating a forbidden love, territorial wars between local overlords that echo Dickensís The Adventures of Oliver Twist and cause havoc for the children, and the struggle of English charities to rescue them, with the plan to ship them off to the farmlands of Canada into the hoped-for safety of a healthy countryside and foster care. Almost everyone is plotting something, usually nefarious and dangerous, while the protagonists battle desperate odds. The period detail is vivid and realistic, the conflict constant and often breathtaking, with characters that run the gamut through all the shades of gray to black. Definitely a page-turner, something to keep one awake late into the night. Iím eagerly awaiting the sequel and trusting it will explore both a little-known period of Canadian history and the fates of Hamiltonís haunting characters.Ē
Saving Britain's Cast-offs
Between 1869 and the 1940s thousands of destitute youngsters were plucked from appalling conditions in Britain and sent overseas as Home Children. Canada, Australia and South Africa were major destinations. The object was to remove the children from the horrors of slum life and give them a fresh chance in a new country crying out for immigrants and labour. The children would also supply the Empire with yet more good British stock.
Hardship and Hope
Dozens of child care organizations, such as the Barnardo and Middlemore Homes, oversaw the emigration, collecting the children and sending them out in shiploads. A good many children were not orphans but simply from families that, through poverty, unemployment or death of the breadwinner, could no longer feed them. While the child emigrants were removed from conditions that might very well have killed them, they did not escape painful hardships. Families and siblings were split. Children lost contact with loved ones in Britain. From ages four to fifteen, they could be indentured as farm labourers and domestic servants required to stay until they reached eighteen. In return, they were supposed to receive schooling and a decent home.
Hidden Family Histories
While many youngsters found kindness and a real fresh start, plenty of others suffered exploitation, abuse and ridicule. Even though they went on to become successful, productive citizens, a number felt so ashamed of their status as Home Children that they hid their origins from their own children, sometimes even fabricating a totally different story. Or they considered their past so unimportant they never got around to mentioning it. Many Home Children ran away from their indentured labour in Canada and fled to the United States so a significant number of Americans are also descended from them.
Four Million Modern Descendants in Canada
Canada, alone, received 100,000 Home Children and now has almost four million descendants from these brave little immigrants. Many descendents are only now finding out that there is a Home Child in their family. This is leading to a huge surge of interest in genealogical research to fill the odd gap in the family tree and often discover a tribe of brand new relatives in Britain they never suspected existed.
Year of the Home Child - 2010
The contributions of these children were finally recognized. 2010 was declared the Year of the Home Child and a handsome stamp was issued to honour them. Gail expects to continue the story in subsequent novels set in Canada.
Are You Part of this Story?
Do You have a Home Child in Your Family?
You may be only now realizing that your grandmother, Great Uncle Pete, or Great Great Grandpa Winslow might actually have been a Home Child. You could be one of the almost four million Home Child descendants in Canada or in the United States. If you don't know where to start finding out about your ancestry, here is a free ebook to help you get started.
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and occasional updates of interest
Bonus: Two chapters of The Tomorrow Country included.