Book Review: The Foundling by Stacey Halls

“These female vessels we inhabited: why did nobody expect them to contain unfeminine feelings? Why could we, too, not be furious and scornful and entirely altered by grief? Why must we accept the cards we had been dealt?”

Published in 2020, The Foundling by Stacey Halls is set in London, 1754, where, six years after leaving her daughter 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 – the last thing she expects to hear is that her daughter has already been reclaimed – by 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’ 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.


A beautifully detailed historical fiction, The Foundling is a compelling story with lots of history and unexpected twists.

As with all of Halls’ books, The Foundling is incredibly atmospheric. The London backdrop is described brilliantly, from the cobbled streets to the creaky townhouses, the busy markets to the dimly-lit hospital. Most of all, I loved learning about the Foundling Hospital as I always enjoy it when a book teaches me something, and this part of our history was really fascinating.

The characters are well-developed and the anticipation builds nicely as you grow more and more eager to find out how the lives of the two narratives link together. What’s revealed adds so much more depth to the story with discussions around class and wealth during this time, and Halls explores it exceptionally well.

The only thing that let me down with this one was a slightly underwhelming ending and an unanswered question that has irritated me, but it’s still a book that I would most definitely recommend.


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