Book Review – The Foundling

Coming back to writing after a little bit of a break due to ill health, and coming back with a bang; this post is all about Stacey Halls’s new book “The Foundling”. You may (or may not, that’s fine too!) remember that I counted her first book, “The Familiars” as in my top reads of 2019. Well, this is easily going to be in my top reads of 2020, I know it already.

As previously, this book is a work of historical fiction, but set a few hundred years later than her first book. Yet there are many similarities; love, heartbreak, and a deliberate emphasis on the way women were, and are, treated. Whilst I would of course hesitate to speak for anyone else, it feels clear that this is a work of feminist fiction, watching through history as women are mistreated, shining a bright light on the failings of our society when it comes to the treatment of women, and the brutal realities that still run deep today.

Cover art

Just as I fell in love with Fleetwood in “The Familiars”, so too I fell in love with Bess. Bright, feisty, and ready to fight for what is hers, there is no way that it is possible not to love her. Where society has tried to shame her, she has kept her chin up, putting her daughter Clara into the care of The Foundling Hospital until she is in a position to care for her as fully as she would want to. The fact that when she arrives, Clara has already been claimed, is another matter…

As always, my reviews are spoiler free, so I will not go into details, because there are simply so many perfect ones for you to uncover when you read this book. It is beautiful, powerful, enchanting, superb… I could go on. I devoured it in two days, reading then napping then reading again. I simply did not want to put it down. The beautiful hardback copy I received as my review copy was as stunning on the outside as it was inside, and it almost feels like it deserves to be in a frame, just as a work of art.

Stacey Halls has a clear and defined talent for historical writing. The amount of research she has clearly put in to this book makes it stand out from others, and whilst the Pendle witch trials could easily have been noted as something she ‘only’ knew about from being local to it, this book demonstrates that she has the ability to adapt to any century she should turn her hand to.

As with “The Familiars”, I wish I could turn back the clock and read this book for the first time all over again. It was a joy to read, with characters who felt so defined they could be in the room with you, and locations so vivid, you could open the door to the Thames hundreds of years ago.

I have said before that historical fiction is one of those things it takes a skill to get ‘right’; you need to adapt your research skills, your language use, your characterization. It is, in my humble opinion, one of those things in literature that either goes very right, or very wrong. Stacey Halls has pure skill, something that can’t be learned, and knows how to grab an audience from the first page whilst keeping a book honest to its time. I cannot recommend more highly.

Thanks as always to the author Stacey Halls, to the publisher Manilla Press, and to Readers First for allowing this munch anticipated book to land in my lap earlier than it would have otherwise.

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