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Book Review: The Violets are Mine by Lester Morris

Lester Morris

The Violets are Mine: Tales of an Unwanted Orphan

Javelina Books, May 2011), 329 pages, $19.95

ISBN: 978-0-9785221-3-1

(Nonfiction, Memoir)

“The piece of paper clearly states that on February 10, 1940 I was born into a very unpredictable world at a place called Woburn Green, in Buckinghamshire, west of London. Apparently, I only lasted one year before being dumped by my father into St. Agatha’s Nursery, Princess Risborough, also in Buckinghamshire.”

A sad story of a little boy who grew up in a harsh environment and the strategies he employed to survive. Morris writes with much feeling and the emotions come through strongly. He had my emotions all over the place, from sadness and shock to laughter and relief.

Evil people who beat Morris with belts and even worse ran the homes he was sent to, for the most part. Though Morris had his older brother with him, who looked after him in secret, he still felt alone. In his first home, Morris was given a teddy bear, which he described as “a pathetic-looking creature,” that “had no eyes,” and “looked like it had been through hell.”

One day the other children claimed that Morris ate a ladybug. He did but it was actually a dare. The assistant matron after checking his mouth announced to all “ Yes, he’s got bits of bug in his mouth.” Morris’s older brother tried to help and stepped in with “Les was eating the bug as a dare. He doesn’t normally eat bugs, at least, not that I know of.”

Then one day the Morris brothers found themselves on the way to a new home. This time they were greeted with smiles. Turns out these were to be their foster parents. Both boys had been given bouquets of violets to present to the woman. Doug did as he was supposed to, but Lester resisted saying “these violets are mine.” But it didn’t take long and they, too, began belt beating Morris as was done before.


The light in midst of the tunnel came at one home where the children were treated like family members. It was a good change and life seemed normal, but as before, it didn’t last long. When Morris was old enough he decided to join the military and get away from it all. This too had its difficulties. Eventually, he met an older brother he didn’t know he had, learned more about his parents and birth family, and met up with Doug once again.

Morris writes in a conversational style as if he were sitting there with you and taking you through his story. He draws you in and you can’t help but want to keep reading constantly wondering what more can possibly happen.

I liked how the writing brought on the emotions, bringing tears to my eyes, cracking me up with laughter, and keeping me wanting more. I didn’t like what Morris had to experience as a young boy. I felt sorry for him and wished things had been different. I highly recommend this book as a must read memoir. It will open your eyes to the cruelty the British orphanages exercised and will give you the true picture of life in these settings. The fictional picture one might remember from Oliver Twist is nothing compared to what poor Morris went through. In the end, I was glad Morris survived and became stronger for it.

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