The Robber Baron’s Daughter

I loved Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin, even though there was much that was evil in the story. The Robber Baron’s Daughter is the next of Jamila’s books for older children. Can’t quite decide what age it’s for, though, as the “fairy tale princess” part is more childish, and the “illegal people trafficking” part of necessity is older.

The Robber Baron's Daughter

Nettie is twelve and lives a life of unimaginable luxury with her parents in London. Slowly, very slowly, she begins to understand that all is not well in her family and in their home. I’d like to say that she makes friends with Benny, the boy from the other side (not a ghost; just a servant’s child), except I don’t feel she really does. Nettie loves the ballet, and learns to dance from her great aunt, a former ballerina. Benny, on the other hand, does all the legwork trying to find Nettie’s tutor Miss Kovachev, who has vanished without a trace.

Jamila does a good, if shocking, job of showing how illegal immigrants turn up here, and why. There is an uneasy difference between the wealth of Nettie’s family, and the lives of Miss Kovachev, Benny and Nettie’s friend from school, Raisa. It’s almost too much to take in; the fairy tale and the awful reality.

3 responses to “The Robber Baron’s Daughter

  1. I once completely traumatised the eight year old daughter of a neighbour by taking her (along with my kids) on a trip to the Foundling Hospital Museum and explaining the significance of the black and white balls (for selecting which children would gain entry to the home) used by Thomas Coram’s hospital. She was amazed that children had, comparatively recently, been that destitute in the city she was now growing up in. I felt terrible about having a weeping child on my hands. Fortunately her parents were fine about it. Introducing shocking stories to children is a really tricky one. My boys didn’t get past the first few chapters of Harry Potter because they hated the cruelty shown to Harry at home. Their little sister, on the other hand, was completely unfazed by it.

  2. It’s bad enough when you realise you’ve misjudged it with your own child, but to have someone else’s child in tears is not fun. At least the parents didn’t stop speaking to you, then? (How to upset children and lose your friends in one fell swoop.)

  3. Thank you, Jamila Gavin for a very interesting but sad story. I nearly used up a tissue box crying through your story. I wondered if you were writing a sequel though.

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