BOOK CLUB: The Girl in the Orphanage

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[Total: 4 Average: 4.5]

The Girl in the Orphanage by Robert Barclay is an excellent read. It’s a murder mystery packed with action and suspense. 

The story is fictional and set in Cambodia. It is a very thought provoking read, highlighting the plight of children in a country where there is poverty and no child protection laws. The story also highlights the agencies and aid workers who are working tirelessly to protect the children and bring about change.

Katy Yehonala lives peacefully in Melbourne caring for her tourist attraction, The Red Peony Garden. Her husband Simon is away in Cambodia where he runs a charity, The Sunlight Foundation. He has campaigned for years to raise the plight of children sold into the sex trafficking trade. Their daughter, Clara, is a world famous concert pianist. Clara now lives in Paris but is still a Chinese citizen where they consider her a national treasure.

A knock at the door by two Australian federal police officers shatters Katy’s world. Her husband Simon has been murdered in a remote Cambodian border village. 

Katy discovers Simon has been writing a story, “Chavy’s Story”, and it is unfinished. It is compelling, and Katy now wishes she had been more involved in Simon’s charity work.

She knows Simon would wish to be buried in the land he loved, Cambodia.

Katy and Clara arrive in Cambodia, firstly to organise Simon’s funeral and secondly to find answers to their many questions and get to the truth of Simon’s murder.

The Cambodian government, the Australian embassy, the federal police and the Chinese embassy all want Katy and Clara to leave, they don’t want them investigating and snooping around.

What is it they are trying to hide from them? Can they trust anyone?

The story is written in a way that you feel as if you are right there with Katy and Clara, these two amazing and strong women who will keep investigating until they find the truth. Their journey takes them into a world of danger, lies and bribes, crime and murder, drugs and betrayals. Also, rather surprisingly love!

The book is the second novel in the Butterfly Dynasty series. It follows on from “The Diary of Katy Yehonala”. It is not necessary to have read the first book, as this book stands alone well.              

I thoroughly recommend this book.  It is well written, on a subject well researched, with plenty of action to keep you engaged as you put all the pieces of the puzzle together.          

The book is a nominee for the 2023 Miles Franklin Literary Award.

Thank you to Shawline Publishing Group and Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read this book. 

A selection of Beauty and Lace Club members are reading The Girl in the Orphanage. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.      

17 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The Girl in the Orphanage

  1. Dear Anne, thank you for the kind review and your insightful summary of the story. Made me want to read it again… Always a pleasure when Beauty and Lace read my work, and I hope equally so for you and your members.

    Best regards and wishes for the New Year. Robert

  2. I’ve started reading this book, but must confess that I haven’t finished it yet as for some reason it’s been giving me nightmares. I really want to finish it though because I enjoy the way it is written and I am keen to know how it all turns out – I just know that for me, I’ll have to take it slowly. The book came beautifully wrapped with a lovely handwritten note which is always appreciated. Thank you Beauty and Lace for letting me review this book I will try to come back on and make another comment when I’ve finished it! >:o)

    1. Hi Simone,

      One of the joys of being a writer, the ultimate one, is knowing a story will affect a reader in some way – whether by lingering slowly over the pages or being moved in some way (though I hope the nightmares are temporary as the story unfolds for you). Without giving away too much, I also hope the ending will be satisfying for you. I look forward to hearing your concluding thoughts. Thank you so much for reviewing The Girl in the Orphanage. Sincerely, Robert

  3. The Girl in the Orphanage by Robert Barclay (Shawline Publishing Group) is a powerful and confronting book…

    When charity founder Simon is murdered in a remote village, his wife Katy Yehonala, and daughter Clara travel to Cambodia to uncover how this nightmare came to pass. They are determined to work out if his death is, as the authorities would like them to think, an accidental killing in a rescue mission gone wrong. Or if the devoted husband, father and dedicated charity worker was targeted and deliberately silenced by powerful people, because what he knew could embarrass the government and threaten to disrupt income streams for corrupt officials?

    Written as both a murder mystery and a dramatic expose of the plight of young children being trafficked in South East Asia, The Girl in the Orphanage is written with both great sensitivity and stark realism. It vividly portrays Cambodia’s significant child trafficking problem, where children can be sold, held captive, and forced into prostitution by powerful crime syndicates – many linked to corrupt political figures. However even whilst describing Cambodia’s seedy underworld, because of the vivacity of the two main characters Katy and Clara, the book also manages to provide a glimpse of the country’s rich culture, lush natural beauty and the people’s traditional Buddhist dignity.

    This is a disturbing yet compelling read that is highly recommended.

  4. Dear Lyn,
    Thank you so much for the kind review of my book. I believe you’ve written an insightful review of the story for readers to understand both the murder mystery and the equally important backstory (ies) of the novel I was trying to tell through the eyes and experiences of Katy and Clara.

    Best wishes to you and all at Beauty and Lace. Sincerely, Rob

  5. The Girl in the Orphanage felt so real, I forgot it was a piece of fiction. This book is not only a murder mystery but an expose into the depths of child exploitation – an area where most Australians know very little about.

    Set in Cambodia, it focuses on the stories of some female characters . Firstly, the well-to-do mother and daughter – Katy and Clara – who are seeking answers into the death of their beloved family member, Simon who was killed rescuing children from sex traffickers. Clara is a fascinating character. She is a talented pianist who finds a lot about herself in course of the novel. It is also about Chavy and her story. After all, it is Simon’s manuscript about the little girl that brings them to Cambodia.

    There’s a fair amount of action but I must admit it took me a few days to get through this book. It’s not a light read so I feel like it wouldn’t be for everyone. I liked the supporting characters, enjoyed the plot and guessing who was corrupt and who wasn’t. I felt very satisfied with the ending.

    Thank you for the opportunity to read this book. For a fiction book, it certainly made me feel for these exploited children who grow up in such poverty, and thankful for those people that are working on the frontline. I also wish I could be so brave as Simon, Katy and Clara.

  6. Dear Kylie, thank you for the insightful review of my book, The Girl in the Orphanage. By telling stories we (writers) hope we can entertain with a good tale and leave the reader with something memorable beyond the plot. I thought the plight of children could be told in this way, through Katy and Clara’s experiences.
    My next book, The Body Shop, follows the same theme and highlights the destruction of the magnificent rainforests of Kalimantan as Katy, Clara and a new heroine, Cassie, each come to terms with their demons and delights with this backstory. I hope you will enjoy reading (and perhaps reviewing) the book.
    Best regards, Robert

  7. The Girl In The Orphanage by Robert Barclay is a powerful story of two, exceptionally strong-willed women and their search for justice, amidst a disturbing background of child pornography and sex trafficking.

    Living in Melbourne, Katy Yehonala’s world is shattered when she hears news of her husband murdered in a remote village in Cambodia. Together with their daughter, Clara, Katy travels to Cambodia where their quest for answers to Simon’s death leads them both into a dangerous world.

    The Girl In The Orphanage can be described as a fictional murder mystery with a serious plot based on courageous men, women and even children, fighting for a better world. Whilst it is a reminder of what is wrong in this world, this was a gripping, well-researched and emotional story with great characters. I enjoyed reading the perspective of the two main characters – Katy and Clara – as the story was told separately throughout the novel through their eyes.

    Thank you, Beauty and Lace, Shawline Publishing and Robert Barclay for the opportunity to read and review this novel. I highly recommend it. Five out of five stars from me.

    1. Hi Christine.
      A wonderful review, thank you, and one which I feel captures the essential and serious backstories in my novels seen through the eyes, emotions, ups and downs and romantic (and other) adventures of my heroines, Katy and Clara. I hope you will also enjoy The Body Shop, which takes the Ladies Yehonala and their friends into new and dangerous worlds where they confront the price we pay for beauty.
      Best regards, Robert

  8. The Girl in the Orphanage by Robert Barclay.
    I am really glad I got chosen to read and review this book as it certainly opened my eyes to something that never gets talked about much .
    A very compelling and insightful novel which I enjoyed reading right until the end .
    I liked all the characters in the book which the Author has described well I could picture them in my mind.
    The story begins with Kay Yehonala who lives in Red Peony Garden in Melbourne, were she hears devastating news of her late husband Simon-has been murdered in Cambodia doing what he loves best which is bringing justice and saving young boys and girls from the evil child sex trafficking ring which is still going on today.
    Katy quickly jumps on a plane and travels to Cambodia were she and her daughter Clara try to find out why .
    Whilst sorting through Simons belongings she finds an unfinished manuscript titled Chavys Story .
    Katy and Clara want to finish the manuscript and find out what became of the young girl that Simon had taken an interest in .
    It is definitely disturbing and gripping but worth reading .
    It is a big reminder of these horrible crimes are still going on in the world today
    Certainly an eye opener ..
    Thank-you Beauty and Lace .

    1. Hello Pauline,
      Thank you so much for reviewing my novel and for seeing it through to the end 🙂 I hope the ending was satisfying for you. I can’t quite remember if I mentioned it in the introduction but the young girls, Chavy and Rangsei, are a composite of a real young victim as far as her situation and home are concerned – though I hasten to add the original young girl who is the inspiration for the story is very much alive today. Best regards, Robert.

  9. The Girl in the Orphanage by Robert Barclay was an interesting and compelling read. The book arrived beautifully wrapped and with a hand written note enclosed which was lovely. I was easily engaged in the story, touched by the tragic circumstances of Simon’s death in Cambodia and a little overwhelmed by the underworld trafficking of children for abuse, knowing the reality of this situation for many vulnerable children across the globe.
    Simon’s grieving wife Katy and daughter Clara travel to Cambodia after learning of Simon’s murder and find themselves immersed in a search for “Chavy”, a character in an unfinished manuscript Katy found amongst Simon’s things. Armed with a strong belief that Chavy is real and wanting to finish the story Simon never did, Katy and Clara embark on a gripping and at times frightening search which ultimately brings them the answers they are looking for and the start of a new life.
    Hard to read at times but I’m certainly glad I did.
    Thank you Shawline Publishing and Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read and review The Girl in the Orphanage.

    1. Dear Kerry, thank you so much for reviewing my book, The Girl in the Orphanage. I hope that as a writer I can sometimes challenge a reader, so I am delighted you saw it through to the end and the ending was satisfying for you. Katy and Clara continue to grow in the next book, The Body Shop, which I hope you will enjoy. Sincerely, Robert

  10. I didn’t really enjoy this book and I’m going to put the blame on the publisher here. I thought this was a book about child sex trafficking and, well, a girl from a Cambodian orphanage. But after looking at the author’s Instagram page I see now it is part of a series; Katy and Clara Yehonala Mysteries. I think this should be on the front cover somewhere. If I knew this I would have went into the book with a whole different mindset. I got annoyed when the story moved to be all about Clara because I wanted more about how the children are trapped, how their families feel and what, if anything, the village community is doing.
    Robert Barclay’s writing is exquisite and his sharp wit is reflected in his characters’ snappy dialogue. Katy and Clara are wonderfully fleshed-out characters. I intend to read the first book The Story of Katy Yehonala and then come back to this one.

    1. Hi Veronica. Thank you so much for the review of my book. So unfortunate your mindset was in the wrong place, and I apologise for the misunderstanding. I hope you return to the book after reading the Diary and see the story in a different context (or as part of the series). I wrote the books to tell stories with a social issues backstory, the Orphanage with child sex-trafficking, the next, The Body Shop, with the price of beauty and the destruction of rainforests in Kalimantan. Through the series, Katy and Clara mirror the culture they came from – China – and as China evolved from revolutionary times (The Diary book – Katy’s birth and growing up) to the two women finding their way in the world successfully as China is doing. The third book has the women at the peak of their success. The series I have called The Butterfly Dynasty as the books are a metaphor for the life-cycle of a butterfly – birth, spreading wings, the peak of beauty, death and rebirth. I hope this will help with your understanding of my writing. Sincerely, Robert

  11. Thank-you Beauty & Lace for giving me the chance to read & review ‘The girl in the orphanage by Robert Barclay’
    When Katy’s husband and Clara’s father (Simon) dies through violence in Cambodia a mystery begins to be unravelled. Why are the Cambodian, Australian and Chinese governments becoming involved in the families grieving process, is there something more that is going on?
    Katy and Clara work together to unravel the journey Simon was on with his charity work, facing danger, corruption and lies whilst finding truth in unexpected places. I enjoyed the book although I would have preferred to read more about Chavy, her sister, and the other children from the orphanage and less about Clara’s love life. Thank you ‘Beauty & Lace Bookclub’ for the opportunity to read ‘The girl in the orphanage by Robert Barclay’.

  12. Dear Donna. Thank you for the kind review of The Girl in the Orphanage. The series books do, I hope, stand alone as complete stories and contain a thread leading to the next (Rangsei appears again in the next book). I wrote a reply to Veronica, above, with more thoughts about the development of the series and the characters Katy and Clara, which may address your point about Clara’s love life I hope will be helpful. Best regards, Robert

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