Book review: The Foundling

We were all agreed that The Foundling was an easy read with some nice writing. Stacey Halls gives a vivid portrayal of Georgian London and from more than one perspective. Bess makes a living hawking shrimps whilst Alexandra, terrified of the world beyond her door and left comfortably off by her parents, whiles away her time. Bess had been forced by circumstances to give away her baby Clara to the Foundling Hospital and her search to reclaim her daughter results in her life becoming intertwined with Alexandra’s.

We all enjoyed the start of the book but as the story progressed it gradually became less and less satisfying. Actions seemed out of character. The explanation, when it came, was not plausible and the ultimate outcome not credible given the time the book was set -it felt as though a modern resolution had been forced in. However the cast of lesser characters were enjoyable – Bess friends came from a wider variety of backgrounds demonstrating the diverse mix already in London at that time.

The book did lead some of us to look into the fascinating history of the Foundling Hospital and one of its early governors Dr Richard Mead. His goods were auctioned on his death, as described in the book, and his home in Great Ormond Street, backing on to the Foundling Hospital grounds, later became the site of the Great Ormond Street Hospital.