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Book Review: The Misunderstandings of Charity Brown - a poignantly amusing story of personal growth

Updated: Sep 5, 2022

Written by: Elizabeth Laird

Published by: Macmillan

Historical Setting: Post-war London

Recommended reading age: 11+

The Misunderstandings of Charity Brown is a poignant and amusing coming-of-age story about a pre-teen called Charity Brown. The narrative documents her journey of self-discovery as she seeks to find her place. Ultimately she is faced with a choice; will she stay in the world in which she has grown up, or will she strike out on her own.

One of four children, brought up in a strictly religious household, we pick up Charity’s story at a key turning point in her life. She is still trying to process the trauma of surviving Polio, a global pandemic in the 1950s. Parallels can be drawn with the COVID-19 outbreak, however, unlike with COVID, children were the worst affected.

After moving into an old mansion left to her family by a mysterious benefactor, Charity’s limited worldview is tested. We witness as she encounters new people, cultures, and experiences that lead her to question everything she thinks she knows about the world.

Author Elizabeth Laird gives us a glimpse of a society in flux, through the lens of an adolescent girl’s experiences of personal growth. Whilst the historical observations are surface-level, it fits within the context of Charity’s heightening awareness. What comes through is an undercurrent of tension and uncertainty that is not too dissimilar to modern times.

An important lesson that Charity comes to realise as she embraces her broadening worldview, is that it’s ok not to know everything and to continue pondering life’s big questions with an open mind.

Personally, I wanted more conflict between Charity and her parents as she began to question the fundamentals of her religion. What was shaping up to be an interesting clash of viewpoints seemed to dissolve as her parents underwent their own simultaneous journeys of discovery.

This reflects the author’s own experiences of growing up in an evangelical but very nurturing home. However, I felt that more resistance from Charity’s parents would have underlined the risk she was taking by straying from the limitations of her upbringing and resonated with some readers going through their own journeys of acceptance that are perhaps at odds with their families.

Equally, I feel that the brother’s storyline was another, perhaps cliched, missed opportunity to force Charity and their family to make some very relevant, moral decisions in keeping with the overall theme of acceptance.

That said, I still feel that Laird achieved this aim and the result was a warm and hopeful story of personal growth shared by an entire family. She introduces a third option into the mix; one where the child can retain the best values of her family, but develop a much less exclusive worldview.

A huge thank you to Macmillan Children's Books for providing us with a review copy of The Misunderstandings of Charity Brown.

The Misunderstandings of Charity Brown will be released on 07/07/22.

If you'd like to pre-order the book, then please click here to head to Macmillan Children's Books.


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