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 . . .
Bess Bright arrives at the Foundling Hospital in Bloomsbury to pass her baby into their care. With no money to feed Clara, nor stability nor hope of brighter prospects, The Foundling is her only option. She must do what she can for her child, even if it means loosing her.
Six years on and Bess returns to claim her child. Every coin and scrap of clothing has been lovingly saved and now Bess can offer her a life by her side. A small bed in a small home and a bundle of clothes await her. It isn’t much but it is more than she would have had as a baby. Bess has saved up her love for six years and finally she will be able to see Clara.
But when Bess arrives at the Foundling, searching for her daughter, a girl with her face in the crowds of children, she cannot find her. Because Clara has already been claimed. By her mother. The day after Bess took her to the Foundling, a woman arrived to take her away. For six years, she has shared her child with another. Clara could belong to anyone. Live anywhere.
In order to find her daughter, Bess must find the woman pretending to be her. But how? And who can it be? She has no family other than her father and brother. Clara, product of a brief tryst, has no father: Daniel passed many years ago. She knows no one who would want to take her child. And yet, someone, somewhere, is raising her, filling her mind with false stories, pretending to be her blood.
Before reading this book, I had not come across the Foundling Hospital or as it’s known now the Foundling Museum. Opened in 1741, it’s a place where mothers could take their babies and young children if they could not afford to keep them, then, in the future, re-claim them. As a form of identification, of connecting parent to child, mothers would leave tokens: coins with initials cut into them, bits of cloth and clothes, beads, ordinary objects that could be taken from pockets and purses. It is such a moving and emotional piece of history and this book draws on it so exquisitely.
Stacey Halls has written a rare, captivating novel that explores the hearts’ nuances, the many sides of love, courage and motherhood. I adored it. Grab a copy of this book as soon as you can!
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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.