I’m delighted to be sharing my review today as part of the blog tour for The Foundling by Stacey Halls. Many thanks to Tracy Fenton for my blog tour invite and review copy of the book.
What’s this book about?
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 . . .
I adored The Familiars and so The Foundling was high on my list of anticipated reads for this year. Thankfully Stacey Halls didn’t let me down and has written a compulsive drama with beautifully drawn characters and a fascinating storyline. To know that the Foundling hospital and the way in which it operated were based on fact made this story even more poignant and shocking in its authenticity. And as I followed the journey of this mother who had acted in desperation, the emotional pain of her decision and the resulting fallout left me shocked that these tragedies had occurred as part of our social history.
When Bess gives birth to an illegitimate child she knows she isn’t in a position to keep her so she takes her child to The Foundling Hospital. Here, a bizarre lottery takes place in front of the local gentry to decide which babies are allowed to stay. Mothers who successfully make the cut are able to leave their baby at the hospital but must register them by leaving them a token of their family so that they can be recognised if ever they are claimed. Bess leaves a whalebone token given to her by her lover and vows to return when she is able to support her child properly. But when she returns 6 years later she is told her child had already been claimed and is no longer there…
The Foundling is a dark and sometimes upsetting story of a mothers search to reclaim her daughter. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for Bess to give up her baby without knowing if she would ever see her again. But she’s a gutsy heroine, never giving up even though the figures used to explain how many children were actually reclaimed by their parents from places like that is absolutely shocking. I loved the idea of the little tokens the mothers left with their babies so as to be able to recognise them if and when they did return to take them home. But the system obviously had some flaws especially when Bess goes to collect Clara and finds out she has already been removed-and by someone claiming to be Bess! Only once Alexandra is introduced to us does the mist start to clear and things become clearer…although my sympathies never wavered!!
The Foundling is an intelligent and insightful historical drama that kept me gripped throughout. A well deserved 5 stars from me! And Stacey Halls is now one of my recommended “must read” authors.
Meet the author
Stacey Halls was born in 1989 and grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and has written for publications including the Guardian, Stylist, Psychologies, The Independent, The Sun and Fabulous. Her first book The Familiars was the bestselling debut novel of 2019. The Foundling is her second novel.