Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Published: February 6th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction
Today I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for this phenomenal novel. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and to Bonnier Zaffre for my gifted copy of this book.
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…
Ms. Halls has once again created a masterpiece. The Foundling is a lush, enthralling and lingering read that left me speechless. It is very different from her debut novel, The Familiars, but again Halls has infused this story with her exquisite, pitch-perfect prose, luring me in slowly until the world outside this novel no longer existed.
The story is narrated by Bess and Alexandra, two very different women from two very different walks of life, and begins on a cold night in November 1747 when Bess, an impoverished shrimp hawker, arrives at the London Foundling Hospital with her newborn daughter, Clara. Unable to raise her she has come for the monthly raffle to try and give her child a chance of survival. When Clara is accepted, Bess vows to one day return and claim back her little girl, leaving behind a token of half a heart made out of whalebone and carved with their initials so she can be identified. Six years later she finally has enough money saved to return but is told that Clara was claimed the day after being left. And that she was the one who claimed her…
I don’t want to say much more about the plot as part of the beauty of this book is discovering it as you go along. We know that Clara/Charlotte was taken, so the mystery is why. When the story shifts to Alexandra’s dark, gloomy townhouse that is more like a prison full of fear than a home, we slowly begin unravelling the complex motivations that led to her being taken and discovering if Bess will be reunited with her daughter.
The two narrators are very different women at opposite ends of the social spectrum. Both were richly drawn and felt sympathetic and relatable. It was fascinating to read their diverse views on life and motherhood and how differently they dealt with the problems life has thrown their way. Though I wanted Bess to be reunited with her daughter properly, I also could never fully get behind either woman in their battle for the child as they both loved her, wanted what they thought was best and there would be no winners, only losers in this battle. With Clara/Charlotte facing heartache and loss whatever the outcome was. Ultimately the story became more of an exploration of what it really means to be a mother, to want what’s best for your child and what matters most when raising them.
Halls is a true storyteller who makes reading this book an immersive experience. Her imagery made me feel like I was in The Foundling Hospital with Bess and the other women, in Alexandra’s gloomy townhouse, that I walked the dank, dirty and filthy streets of Georgian London and could smell the decay. I could feel Bess’s anguish as she’s forced to hand over her child, her determination to get her back, Alexandra’s anxieties and fear and was waiting with bated breath as the tension mounted. She illuminates the huge inequalities between the have and have nots and examines mental health problems at a time they aren’t recognised or understood.
Utterly magnificent, heart-rending, compelling and cleverly executed, The Foundling is a superior work of gothic fiction. She has created a tender, restrained masterpiece that I have no doubt will have a place in my top 10 books of 2020. This is one you don’t want to miss. READ IT NOW!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Stacey Halls grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire, as the daughter of market traders. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and moved to London aged 21. She was media editor at The Bookseller and books editor at Stylist.co.uk, and has also worked as a journalist for Psychologies, the Independent and Fabulous magazine. TV rights of The Familiars shave been sold to The Bureau production company.
Bought in a nine-way auction, The Familiars was received with much praise and is nominated for an HWA award.
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