by Stacey Halls
A mother’s love knows no bounds. . .
London, 1754. Six years after leaving her newborn, Clara, at London’s Foundling Hospital, young Bess Bright returns to reclaim the illegitimate daughter she has never really 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. 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 a quiet town house, a wealthy widow barely ventures outside. When her close friend – an ambitious doctor at the Foundling Hospital – persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her young 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 will soon tear her carefully constructed world apart.
I was so happy to get my hands on a copy of ‘The Foundling’, not only because I loved ‘The Familiars‘ but also because I think it might be the most beautiful book I’ve ever owned.
This book is set in and around Bloomsbury in London which is an area I know well. In 1754, however, the city wasn’t anything like present day and I was fascinated to find that in Georgian London, it was possible to to see fields from some part of the city. These little things aren’t something I usually think about, but the author Stacey Halls does an amazing job at fully immersing you into the time and place of her books and ‘The Foundling’ was so very vibrant and atmospheric that I felt like I was there.
In this story, Bess Bright leaves her illegitimate newborn child, Clara, at the Foundling Hospital, where she was to be cared for until reclaimed. Six years on, Bess has saved and saved with hope of being able to bring Clara back into her life, but when she arrives she finds that Clara has already been collected.
The Foundling Hospital was a real place, established in 1739 by the Thomas Coram with the aim of caring for babies at risk of abandonment. In both her books, Stacey Halls has managed to take pieces of history that are not widely known about and created wonderful fictional stories based on them. There has clearly been a great deal of research involved in writing this book and I have to say that I’m really impressed. I’d love to stop by The Foundling Museum one day and find out even more about the stories behind the children who were left there.
The story was descriptive, engaging and wonderfully crafted. The characters were strong and helped me understand what people’s lives in Georgian times were like without feeling like I was reading a history textbook. If you had asked me a few years ago if I thought I’d enjoy historical fiction, I would have said no without question. I’m so glad that my recent reads in the genre have proved me wrong.
Overall rating: “The Foundling” is a historical story set in Georgian London. This was my favourite read of the year so far and I think it’ll be difficult to beat. The story is atmospheric, the characters are strong and the history is fascinating too. It’s 5 stars from me!
Thank you to Readers First for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
See my other reviews of books by Stacey Halls here: