The Girls with No Names – Serena Burdick


The Girls with No Names pulls readers into the gilded age of New York City in the 1910s, when suffragettes marched in the street, unions fought for better work conditions—and girls were confined to the House of Mercy for daring to break the rules.Not far from Luella and Effie Tildon’s large family mansion in Inwood looms the House of Mercy, a work house for wayward girls. The sisters grow up under its shadow with the understanding that even as wealthy young women, their freedoms come with limits. But when the sisters accidentally discover a shocking secret about their father, Luella, the brazen older sister, becomes emboldened to do as she pleases.But her rebellion comes with consequences, and one morning Luella is mysteriously gone. Effie suspects her father has made good on his threat to send Luella to the House of Mercy and hatches a plan to get herself committed to save her sister. But she made a miscalculation, and with no one to believe her story, Effie’s escape from the House of Mercy seems impossible—unless she can trust an enigmatic girl named Mable. As their fates entwine, Mable and Effie must rely on each other and their tenuous friendship to survive.The Home for Unwanted Girls meets The Dollhouse in this atmospheric, heartwarming story that explores not only the historical House of Mercy, but the lives—and secrets—of the girls who stayed there.

My review

The Girls with No Names is a page turner. I couldn’t put it down. Serena Burdick’s writing is beautifully balanced; the historical setting and personal relationships between the characters did not overshadow oneanother and the novel provided enough factual information to educate the reader on asylums such as House of Mercy. Burdick’s writing is heartwarming.

From the very beginning, the characters drew me in and I admired the strength and courage of the women in the novel. The story is from three different perspectives; young Effie, Mable and Jeanne, Effie’s mother.

Effie’s family life appears loving without fault, until the cracks start to form. Effie and her sister, Luella, sneak out to visit the gypsies, enjoying their music and freedom. The colourful world of the gypsies is juxtaposed with the black and white world in which the sisters have been brought up in. This is a world where a young girl could be taken to a work house for ‘shameful indescretions’, treated like a slave, abused and not provided with an opportunity to return to their home. Luella and Effie feel the constraints of their world. The gypsies’ society in comparison feels ‘free and magical’.

In a terrible turn of events, Luella goes missing and Effie commits herself to House of Mercy in the hope to rescue Luella from the horrors of this place. This is where Effie meets Mable, a young girl who although intimidating at first will be there to hold Effie’s future in her hands. Burdick writes of the emotional trauma experienced by the characters, which gave me as a reader further understanding of the horrors of what occured in the asylums.

My favourite quote from the novel is ‘Things not of this earth must be kept in the hearts of young people… Life can be ugly. You must keep your imagination alive. That way you have somewhere else to look if things turn unbearable.’ Imagination proves to be powerful for Effie, as she writes her stories and imagines the outcomes to scenarios. I particularly loved Effie’s writing and how it was interwoven in her chapters.

Stories live on in the hearts of their readers. Thank you @harpercollins @harlequinaus for sending me a copy of The Girls with No Names. This story gave me insight into history and took me on an emotional and heartfelt journey. I will always wonder about the personal stories of women who were imprisoned in such places. A book that makes me want to read more, based on historical facts, is one that has done its job in educating and connecting with the reader. This was a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ read for me! I would highly recommend this novel.

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