By Jane Eales
Secrets, Spies and Spotted Dogs is a true story about the author’s adoption and her quest for truth and identity. Told about her adoption at age 19, she was sworn to secrecy and forbidden to search for her biological family.
Decades later, a heart-wrenching family crisis and a longing to know about her origins and why she was adopted drive Jane to painstakingly research her roots in Harare (then Salisbury), Johannesburg, London, Berlin and Sydney.
Eventually she is warmly welcomed by her biological mother’s family in London and is astonished to learn that her mother was an attractive mysterious and charming woman – and a spy for the Allies during WWII.
The Imitation Game, and Foyle’s War set the atmosphere perfectly. Secrets, Spies and Spotted Dogs interweaves the author’s poignant search for truth abut her identity with the heart-pounding threads of WWII espionage at Arnhem in the Netherlands just prior to the ‘Market Garden’ airborne campaign.
The letter arrived in a drab brown, envelope stamped ‘official’. It was October 1966. I was nineteen, and had been living in Johannesburg for a year. I was staying in the YWCA, a centrally-located, purpose-built modern hostel for women. My room was on the fifth floor with a pleasant outlook over the city. Mum and Dad (Elizabeth and Benjamin) lived in Salisbury (now called Harare) in Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe) and a year earlier, they had encouraged me to move to Johannesburg, and had also supported the choice of the YWCA as a place where I could live. Some years before this, James, my brother, who was seven years my elder, had moved to Australia.
It was standard practice for the South African Department of Immigration to contact new settlers at the end of their first year to see if they were planning to stay permanently in South Africa and if so, to invite them to complete an application for permanent residency. My letter contained an application form.
It seemed fairly straightforward; however, I needed my birth certificate. I looked for it in the document file in my cupboard, but it wasn’t there. Where could it be?
Then I remembered, Mum and Dad had done all the paperwork for my passport application a few years earlier, so maybe they still had it. In my next weekly letter home, I asked Mum and Dad to post my birth certificate to me. They probably kept it with my other personal documents in their safe at home in Rhodesia. With that done, I put it out of my mind.
After supper on the very next Sunday night, I was sitting on the edge of my bed in my hostel room choosing clothes to wear for the week ahead. The curtains were half open and the city lights twinkled Secrets, Spies and Spotted Dogs in the dark of the night. It had been a sociable weekend – with a great party the previous evening filled with new friends, guitar playing, and folk singing.
‘Jane, room fifty-two, please take a phone call in the lobby!’
The intercom announcement boomed into the bedrooms of all seventy residents. I had never had a phone call during my stay at the hostel, so generally took no notice of these broadcasts. There was a brief pause and the proclamation rang out again, and this time the voice was more insistent. I suddenly realised the announcement was for me! How embarrassing. I jumped up, pressed the intercom button, acknowledged the message, and dashed downstairs.
Who was it? Who would be phoning me?
This was long before the days of mobile phones, and at that time in Johannesburg, there was a long wait to get a phone connected at home. We were fortunate as the hostel had two public telephones in the lobby. No privacy though! The motherly concierge, as well as any residents with their guests, could hear every conversation. This did not bother me, as I was not planning to have any personal conversations. But who could be phoning?
‘Hello. Good evening,’ I said in my most confident voice.
‘Hello, Jane. It is Dad. How are you?’ Of course as soon as I heard his heavy German accented voice, I knew it was Dad. But why was he phoning me? What was the urgency?
‘Fine – thank you, Dad. How are you? How is Mum?’
Dad, characteristically, came straight to the point.
‘We are all right, Jane. Thank you for asking. We received your letter.’
Oh, yes. I remembered now.
Dad continued in the tone I knew so well that meant, ‘Do not question me; let me finish what I want to say, then please follow my instructions!’ Perhaps he was aware of where I was and that there was no privacy.
‘Jane, I won’t beat about the bush. I will say immediately why I am phoning you. Mum and I want you to fly home for the weekend next Saturday. It will be nice for you to visit and we can give you the documents you ask for.
Fly home, for just a weekend! I liked the idea of going home. It was quite a few months since they had visited me in Johannesburg. But, why did they want me home suddenly, at such short notice? Why fly all that way for only a twenty-four hour visit? This would be my first trip home since Christmas the year before.
Feeling apprehensive, I knew Dad did not want me to question anything over the phone.
‘Okay, Dad. That’s fine,’ I said.
He continued. ‘I’ll book the flight and organise for the ticket to reach you before you leave. Take a taxi to the airport on Saturday morning and I will pay. I will meet you at the airport.’
‘Thanks, Dad,’ I said. After asking Dad to give Mum my love, we rang off.
Wow! How exciting! The pleasure of looking forward to flying to Salisbury diminished any doubts or uncertainties about why I had been called home so suddenly. Life at nineteen was exhilarating and I felt as if nothing could go wrong.
There was little that could have prepared me for what was to follow.
Jane Eales was born in London and adopted into a family with a German refugee father, a British mother and a seven year old son.
She grew up in Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe) met Rob in Johannesburg South Africa and married in Oxford, England. They returned to South Africa and there she went to university. In 1980 the family moved to Sydney Australia. Not long after this, the eldest of their three children was diagnosed with a disability. His health deteriorated markedly and in part to clarify the genes she had inherited, in 1990 Jane began to search for her biological family.
In 2005 she met her half-brother for the first time at Canary Wharf in London. She was welcomed warmly into his family, now her family.
Overwhelmed with family stories, and as a way of making sense of everything, she began to write. As layers upon layers of her family history emerged, she was often asked ‘why don’t you write a book?’ Secrets, Spies and Spotted Dogs is the result. This is her first book.
Jane and her husband continue to live in Sydney with their children, grandchildren and friends.
Learn More About the Author
Author – Jane Rosalie Eales (Middle Harbour Press Pty Ltd)
Format – Print book and e-book.
Publisher – Middle Harbour Press Pty Ltd.
Pub Date – 2014, reprinted 2015
Page Count – 292
Genre – Memoir
Award – Secrets, Spies and Spotted Dogs was a Winner in the autobiography/biography category of the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Award Program. It is the largest not-for-profit award program open to independently published authors worldwide.
Title – Secrets, Spies and Spotted Dogs Subtitle: Unravelling mysterious family connections behind a secret adoption
Buy the Book
Family secrets? Every family has them. What is it like to find out at age nineteen, that your parents are not your birth parents, and what’s more, that you have been sworn to secrecy? Furthermore, your parents demand that you never search for your birth parents. This is the story behind Secrets, Spies and Spotted Dogs.
This is Jane Eales own story. The author carefully researched her book, and in writing it, shared the shame and isolation she felt not being able to discuss her adoption with her friends. It is a chronicle of her painstaking search for her birth parents.
Secrets, Spies and Spotted Dogs is a well written, easy to read memoir that anyone can enjoy, but that would be of great interest to those who have been adopted and to their birth and adopting families.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Michelle Clements James ©
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