*I received a free ARC of this novel, with thanks to the author, Bonnier Zaffre and NetGalley. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Two women, bound by a child, and a secret that will change everything . . .
London, 1754. Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara at London’s Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the child she has never known. Dreading the worst, that Clara has died in care, she is astonished when she is told she has already claimed her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl – and why.
Less than a mile from Bess’s lodgings in the city, in a quiet, gloomy townhouse on the edge of London, a young widow has not left the house in a decade. When her close friend – an ambitious young doctor at the Foundling Hospital – persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her and tear her carefully constructed world apart.
From the bestselling author of The Familiars comes this captivating story of mothers and daughters, class and power, and love against the greatest of odds . . .
Another beautiful historical novel from bestselling author Stacey Halls, as she revisits ideas of womanhood, this time via the relationships between mothers and daughters, sisters and friends.
Bess Bright is forced to give her baby girl up to the Foundling hospital, as she is unable to provide for her as a single mother in poverty, but she leaves her with a distinctive token and the resolve to return for her as soon as she can. Six years later she returns with the money she has scraped together, determined to ‘buy back’ her beloved daughter. But Clara was collected the day after she was abandoned. Collected by Bess Bright.
Meanwhile, in a more prosperous area of London, comfortably well-off Alexandra stays tightly locked behind closed windows and doors after a violent incident left her traumatised. Alexandra is also a single mother, and her daughter Charlotte remains firmly imprisoned within the cage of her mother’s fears. As Charlotte increasingly chafes against her restrictions, Alexandra struggles to keep them both safe and is both relieved and anxious when persuaded to share some of that responsibility with a nursemaid.
The plot hinges on a lot of coincidences, some unlikely, but the whole story hangs together in a beautiful and intricate web spun around (funhouse) mirroring and fate. While the heart of the story is in the characters and their relationships, there is plenty of action and the pace is swift – skipping quieter interim times to move straight from one crisis point to another. I couldn’t stop reading due to the tension of what I could see coming, and the surprises that I didn’t!
The ending may not have been strictly realistic, but it was certainly satisfying and tied up the hanging loose ends neatly, leaving me feeling relieved for the characters I had quickly come to care about.
I would definitely recommend this to fans of historical fiction, similar to the style of Sarah Waters, and to anyone who enjoys a gripping, female-centred story.
These feminine vessels we inhabited: why did nobody expect them to contain unfeminine feelings? Why could we, too, not be furious and scornful and entirely altered by grief? Why must we accept the cards we had been dealt?
– Stacey Halls, The Foundling
The Foundling is available at Amazon and other good bookstores right now!