Published: February 2020
Author: Stacey Halls
Narrators: Laura Aikman & Hattie Morahan
Published by: Manilla Press
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 400 pages / 9 hrs 19 minutes
Reading dates: 13-21 March 2023
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’ 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.
I’m following a challenge over on Instagram to read a #NeglectedRead – one of those books I rushed out to buy by an author I love and has languished on my TBR ever since. My March choice was The Foundling by Stacey Halls. It was my first book by Stacey Halls but since I have all of her books unread, I thought it was a good choice.
As the book begins we meet Bess who has just given birth to a daughter she can’t care for so she has taken her to the Foundling hospital in London where if she is accepted, will be looked after. She always intends to return for Clara when her circumstances are better so leaves a token and memorises her number 627. Six years later she has saved some money and returns to the hospital to collect her daughter. She fears she may have died while in care but shockingly she finds her daughter has already being collected and the hospital are unable to tell her any details about who has taken her.
Across London is a young widow Alexandra who lives with her daughter Charlotte and hasn’t left the house in 10 years, apart to go to church once a week. Her good friend Dr Mead suggests she gets a nursemaid to help with her daughter and Alexandra’s carefully controlled life starts to spiral out of control.
I listened to The Foundling on audio and the voice actresses of Bess and Alexandra were superb. I didn’t know anything about the Foundling hospital so it was really interesting to learn more about it and I’ve read a little more around it as a result of reading this book. It was a good initiative – children who otherwise would have been abandoned or would live in poverty were given a clean home, fed and taught skills to help them find jobs in later life. Sadly children were rarely claimed back as their mothers were rarely able to better themselves so Bess’s determination to get her daughter back is admirable.
While Bess is the more sympathetic character to start with, as the story progresses and we learn more about what happened to Alexandra and the reason she is the way she is, I felt very differently about her. She is trying to be a good mother to Charlotte but she just sees the dangers outside of the house – she fears something will happen to Charlotte or she will get sick so she believes by keeping her inside is the right thing to do.
The Foundling was a really interesting piece of historical fiction with intriguing characters that was great as an audio book, I’m so glad I finally got to read this author and am now really looking forward to reading her other books.
About 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.
It sounds like this story works really well on audio! Fab review.
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