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The Attic Child by Lola Jaye
Historical fiction

The Attic Child

by Lola Jaye

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Quick take

In this sweeping historical epic, the attic of a London mansion braids together two tales of identity and belonging.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Emotional

    Emotional

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_70s

    70s

Synopsis

A hauntingly powerful and emotionally charged novel about family secrets, love and loss, identity and belonging.

Two children trapped in the same attic, almost a century apart, bound by a shared secret.

Early 1900s London: Taken from his homeland, twelve-year-old Celestine spends most of the time locked away in the attic of a large house by the sea. The only time Celestine isn’t bound by confines of the small space is when he is acting as an unpaid servant to English explorer Sir Richard Babbington. As the years pass, he desperately clings on to memories of his family in Africa, even as he struggles to remember his mother’s face, and sometimes his real name . . .

1974: Lowra, a young orphan girl born into wealth and privilege whose fortunes have now changed, finds herself trapped in the same attic. Searching for a ray of light in the darkness of the attic, Lowra finds under the floorboards an old-fashioned pen, a porcelain doll, a beaded necklace, and a message carved on the wall, written in an unidentifiable language. Providing comfort for her when all hope is lost, these clues will lead her to uncover the secrets of the attic.

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Content warning

This book contains a scene depicting sexual assault.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Attic Child.
The Attic Child

Chapter 1

Dikembe

1903

We sat under the tall limba tree that day, with no idea these were the last days of paradise.

The branches and leaves cowered over us, a welcome protection from the blazing afternoon heat. Behind, an uneven, sandy path through a row of trees which flourished majestically under a hazy sky. This was me, almost every day, cloaked in the familiarity and comfort of my favorite spot with my favorite brother, Kabili. Close enough to hear Mama calling for help with a chore, yet far away enough for the illusion of solitude, free to privately discuss pressing issues of the day, such as what it would be like to catch the multicolored thick-toed gecko currently moving toward the top of a tree.

“I almost caught one yesterday!” said Kabili, my elder by three years. I believed the beginning of his story to be true because I’d never doubted anything from his mouth, even if Kabili was well-known in the family for telling half-truths. Just like when he insisted he’d been involved in the killing of the ram Mama served up last Sunday; an unfounded boast because everyone knew Kabili was the first to vomit at the sight of dripping blood.

Being the youngest in my family, a host of questions permanently rested on the tip of my tongue—how do you outrun a gecko? the least important of them all.

“Kabili . . .”

“Yes, brother?”

“Where do you go . . . when you go with them?”

The sound of my name punctured the moment.

“Dikembe!”

Even when raised, my mama’s voice rang sweet inside my ears. Being the youngest of five and likely to be her last, I believed that of all her sons, I was the special one. I only felt this because she constantly made me feel this way with her words. Whispers mixed with an aroma of freshly made stew as we stood over a cooking fire: “A good child, that is you.”

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Why I love it

In a heartbreaking tale of privilege, racism, and identity, two abused children, banished to an attic of the same house nearly a hundred years apart, find the strength to regain their stolen identities and repair their battered souls. Lola Jaye’s new novel The Attic Child expertly meshes the genres of historical fiction, mystery, and adventure, and is equal parts devastating and life-affirming.

In 1905, Dikembe is a young boy in the Congo when he is taken from his home and his beloved mother by a British explorer. He has no idea why his mother appears to have loaned him to Sir Richard Babbington. But in England, nothing is as he expected it to be. Dikembe spends months waiting to be returned to the Congo, but Babbington has other plans. He changes Dikembe’s name to Celestine, teaches him English, dresses him in “proper” British attire, and shows him off at parties. Meanwhile, Celestine longs for his family. But this is only the beginning of the hardships that await him.

In 1993, Lowra, an orphan, is a thirty-year-old woman coping with the emotional damage from the abuse she endured as a child—in the same house where Celestine lived, and she was also banished to the same attic. Slowly, Lowra gathers the courage to search for the truth behind the items she found in the attic beneath the floorboards.

The Attic Child is filled with unforgettable characters and edge-of-your-seat storytelling. A must-read and a fantastic story told with great heart and passion.

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Member ratings (9,148)

  • Jenna P.

    Sevierville, TN

    I’m always here for the found family trope, but it hits even better when the found family is actually family. I adored both Lowra’s and Dikembe’s sides of this story. Captivating and very well written

  • Megan B.

    Milwaukee , WI

    Dikembe’s story is equally heartbreaking and inspiring, facing racism, abuse and cruelty and yet creating a life full of absolute love, in spite of the darkness he—and Lowra—confronted in that attic.

  • haleigh c.

    Cumming, GA

    This book was a nice change of pace to the normal genres/plot lines I go for. I’ve been really enjoying books set up with 2 two separate timelines/perspectives lately as well so all around good read!

  • Brooke H.

    Louisville, CO

    This book was AMAZING, especially being the first I’d picked up in a while. I loved the way Lowra and Celestine’s stories intertwined and was captivated by the plot the entire time. Fantastic read!

  • Morgan Z.

    Fordyce, NE

    The attic. Lowra & Dikembe stories are interwoven. Dikembe’s story is devastating & for him to come out & choose love is amazing! Lowra found what she was looking for & gained family that loved her.

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