“It was the greatest difference between us. To her, money was a pool to drink deeply from. Me, I was parched.”
*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and MIRA in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***
I confess that I was in the minority last year and somehow I wasn’t that big of a fan of Stacey Halls‘ debut The Familiars despite being intrigued the premise. After hearing a lot of positive things about her second book The Foundling (or The Lost Orphan), I just couldn’t resist giving her work another go anyway, especially since I was once again intrigued by the blurb. I’m glad I made that decision now, because this story most definitely hit the mark for me.
I’m a fan of the historical fiction genre in general and both the 18th century setting in London and the plot itself were excellently developed in The Lost Orphan. Most historical fiction stories I’ve had the chance to read are set in Victorian London, so it was a nice change of scenery to go back one more century and get a proper glimpse of the 18th century. The descriptions and development of the setting are extensive and really set the right tone for the rest of the story. The story behind the The Foundling hospital and poor women giving up their babies is a tragic one… And Stacey Halls definitely raised an interesting question: in an era where the poor are mostly illiterate, how can the women be certain to ever see their babies again if they want to reclaim them, even if they have a token? This question is the base of the plot of this story, and it was intriguing to see it developed and have both sides of the story explained.
The Lost Orphan uses two different POVs, and this way we get to see both sides of London society as well as both sides of the story of the missing baby. Bess (Eliza) represents the poor and is the one who was forced to give up her baby six years ago as she wasn’t married and the baby’s father was dead. Alexandra represents the wealthy and shows us a widow with mental health issues (including a form of agoraphobia and OCD) trying to raise her only child. The story switches between the two women to help us show both their stories and give us a glimpse of how both the poor and rich lived back then.Their lives meet when Eliza starts working as a nursemaid for Alexandra’s daughter Charlotte… And although the truth about the situation can be guessed easily, the development of both characters, their background and reasons to do what they do really enhanced the story for me. The Lost Orphan is mostly character-driven and focuses on character development and growth rather than including a lot of action… Although the chapters involving Bess (Eliza) are a lot more lively.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but what I can say is that if you enjoy well written historical fiction with thoroughly developed and basically flawed characters as well as a story that is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, The Lost Orphan or The Foundling is an excellent choice.