Monday 3 February 2020

The Foundling by Stacey Halls @stacey_halls BLOG TOUR @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #TheFoundling

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.

The Foundling by Stacey Halls is published on 6 February 2020 by Manilla Press / Zaffre Books. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review, and to Tracy from Compulsive Readers who invited me to take part on this Blog Tour

Historical Fiction is rarely my genre of choice. However, when I do read and enjoy it, I REALLY enjoy it. The blurb of The Foundling was so intriguing to me, it whetted my appetite so much. 

I LOVED this story! Once more, my basic instinct about anything that begins 'London, 1754 .... ' was absolutely and most certainly wrong! I was captivated from page one, struggling to put the book down at all, and telling every single person that I came across about the story. It's wonderful, and I adore it!

Whilst this is most certainly a historical fiction novel, Stacey Hall writes in such a wonderfully contemporary way.  There's no struggling with ancient language here, it's accessible and totally consuming.

Bess Bright finds herself at London's Foundling Hospital. She's not the first and certainly won't be the last. She gave birth to a girl just that morning, but she's unmarried and lives with her father and brother in what can best be described as a hovel near to the fish market. There's little money as it is and certainly not enough to feed another hungry mouth.

I'd never heard of the Foundling Hospital and Stacey Hall brought it to life, painting a wonderfully evocative picture of the 'lottery' night. Women bring their babies in the hope of finding a place for them at the Hospital. Each one of them has to draw a ball from a sack, and depending on the colour of the drawn ball, they either leave their child, or they don't. It doesn't bear thinking about what happens to the losers.

The wealthy people of London can buy a ticket to watch this spectacle.  Yes ... that's right. If you have money and fancy a jolly night out, you can go along and watch the desperate and the vulnerable be parted from their infants.  Great fun, eh?

Bess is one of the lucky ones. She gets a place for baby Clara, and is given a number for her, but is determined that when she has enough money and is more established she will return to reclaim her.

Six years later and Bess does just that. She has Clara's number and can tell the Clerk exactly what she left with the child as a memento. However, it seems that Clara has already been claimed ... by her mother ... by Bess. She was claimed just one day after Bess left her there.  Bess pours her heart out to the Hospital's Doctor who is determined to find out just what has happened.

The reader then joins Bess as she searches for Clara, and what a detailed and beautifully written journey it is. I learned so much from this book; the author's description of the Billingsgate Fish Market and how Bess and her father work so hard, selling shrimp from a basket that Bess carries on her head. The detailed and atmospheric look at the home they live in, and the eclectic mix of folk that make up their community.

We are then taken into the home of one of the wealthiest, yet unhappiest women in London. There's issues around serious mental health problems here that were not recognised as such back in those days but are clearly and empathically detailed. 

This is a tightly woven story of two women who were born into such contrasting surrounding, but who have similar problems and needs. It is both moving and harmonious, rich in detail with a mystery running through it that reveals dark secrets and many surprises.

I cannot recommend The Foundling highly enough. It's been such an enlightening surprise. Hugely enjoyable, a wonderful reading treat. 

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

Twitter @stacey_halls

Stacey Halls - Book Tour ~ begins 06 February 2020 

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