A beautifully written story about two women from different backgrounds on a journey of self-discovery, whose lives are intertwined.
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 – the last thing she expects to hear is that her daughter has already been reclaimed – by 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’ 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.
Stacey Halls has done it again. What a story!
I absolutely adored The Familiars and knew without a doubt that I would love this one too. It’s an enchanting story set in 18th century London.
This book is split between two protagonists, Elizabeth (Bess) and Alexandra.
Bess Bright gives birth to her illegitimate daughter Clara, being a shrimp seller from a poor background, she has no means to keep a child but tries to give her to The Foundling Hospital. The Foundling is a place where women can leave a child to be raised and you can collect them at a later date for a small fee. Bess believes this is her only chance and leaves her child at the hospital. She leaves a token, should she come back to identify her which is half a whalebone heart. She goes back to her life and aims to earn as much money as she can so she can go and get her Clara back.
Six years pass and she finally has everything together to go and get her child, when she arrives though she is told that her daughter was claimed the very next day after Bess left her.
Little does she know that the wife of the man that got her pregnant is raising her daughter, they meet by chance and eventually (under a new name) she becomes a nursemaid for ‘Charlotte’ the daughter of Alexandra Callard.
Alexandra is fearful of the outside after trauma at a young age and has since passed that fear onto her child, though Charlotte is nothing like Alexandra and wants to explore the world. Bess, under the name ‘Eliza’ becomes a part of the household and gets close to Charlotte. She is happy there until Alexandra attacks them and Bess takes it upon herself to take her child back.
I cannot even fathom the struggle that Bess went through to leave Clara at the Foundling, it was clear she loved her and had no means to care for her and she worked herself to the bone to get Clara back only for her to be taken away from her. She is understandably distraught but doesn’t let that lead her to despair, she knows her daughter is out there and a mother’s love knows no bounds.
Alexandra, on the other hand, is an odd one, she has no maternal instinct and often interacts with Charlotte in a detached and cold manner. She is looking after Charlotte as more of a duty than a mother. Charlotte was meant to fix her but she turned into Charlottes gaoler.
The plight of these two women and the paths they took would inevitably lead them to friction, I loved the conclusion. I was so happy it ended that way and I think it shows the strength of these women to overcome their obstacles and discover themselves. It’s a beautiful journey of discovery for both Bess and Alexandra.
The characters are so well written, even the colloquialisms, you can tell who is who and their societal status.
Stacey Halls has a wonderful way of bringing these historical-led stories to life, it’s honest, heartbreaking, page-turning and sincere.
Thank you so much to Zaffre books for sending me this after the #fwordshavepower competition.
The Foundling is released on February 6th 2020. I’ve already pre-ordered and you can get a beautiful signed edition of the book here.