Book review: Secrets, Spies and Spotted Dogs

Jane Eales

This is the true story of one woman’s search for her birth family which crosses continents from South Africa and Rhodesia, to Australia, the UK, and Holland. Jane Eales discovered she was adopted when she was 19. Her adoptive parents made her swear never to tell anyone else about her adoption and never to search for her birth parents.

She lived with the uncertainty of not knowing for 40 years until, when both her adoptive parents were dead, she started to search. The journey crosses continents as she uncovers a family’s pre-World War Two flight as Hitler threatens, the politics of Southern Africa, and spying during WW2. The ‘Spotted Dogs’ in the title is a reference to Dalmatian dogs; the author’s birth mother, Phyllis, was a renowned UK dog breeder.

For Jane Eales, the promise she made to her adoptive parents was a difficult one to break. They were the only parents she had known, they cared for her, she loved them though she found it difficult to accept and understand their need for secrecy when it made her own life so ill-defined. What prompted her to search? With a learning-disabled son, she was advised to check her own genetic history.

The story is told slowly and carefully, starting with her own childhood and her adopted father’s Jewish family, leading first to a half-brother, cousins, before identifying her birth mother Phyllis. Although this is fascinating, and adds to the final picture, I wanted to get to the bit about spying promised in the book’s title. For that I had to be patient. At times, the book has the feeling of ‘my family’s story’, but the author’s honesty about coming to terms with the decisions taken in the 1940s when times were very different, make this book a worthy read for anyone interested in autobiographies about adoption or family history.

If you like this, try:-
‘I Belong to No One’ by Gwen Wilson
‘Hiding the Past’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
‘Seeking John Campbell’ by John Daffurn

‘Secrets, Spies and Spotted Dogs’ by Jane Eales [UK: Middle Harbour Press] Buy now

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
SECRES, SPIES AND SPOTTED DOGS by @jane_eales #bookreview via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1G3

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