Shout out to Theresa at Theresa Smith Writes (you can read her review here!) for bumping this up my TBR list and a shout out to my sister for taking the book back to the library while I was with her so I could take it out straight away rather than wait another month to buy the hardback. I love it when the universe pulls its weight.
This second book of Stacey Hall’s is about a girl who is forced to give her baby up to the Foundling hospital. Years later, she finally has enough money to claim her daughter. The only problem is: the records say she has already claimed her baby. Streets away, a wealthy woman is convinced to hire a nursemaid for her young daughter…
I read The Familiars in Australia, Stacey Halls’s first novel and I thought it really good – an excellent historical novel with elements of the fantastical in the witch trials – fantastical only in the sense of belief. Anyway. It was good and I arrived back home in time to find out there was a second book by the same author. I tacked it onto my list, but I wasn’t going to rush out to buy it straight away. I figured it could be a payday gift to myself as the cover of both books are simply stunning. Then I read Theresa’s review and decided that I would have to hurry up because it sounded really good.
I think what I found most interesting about this book was how you can’t quite sympathise but also can’t condem either of the mothers – they are both deeply flawed women, and each others polar opposites. It’s a story about motherhood, good and bad mothers but also protection and pain and perhaps most importantly, not knowing someone by looking at them and their lives.
Personally, I found Alexandra (the rich mother) more interesting because she seems to have everything going for her but as the book progresses you get to see some of the trauma that stitches her together and her actions and decisions start to make far more sense. The dichotomy of Alexandra and Bess’s perspectives are really stark and not just from a class difference.
The writing was incredibly powerful. I intended to savour this book but found myself whizzing through, desperate to keep reading even though it wasn’t a thriller or wildly unpredictable – it was just … un-put-downable. I think once I got past the first few chapters I actually could not stop reading just because the people in this novel were so complex and interesting.
So yes, I enjoyed this. And I love the cover so I’m still planning on picking up a copy for my bookshelf (eventually) and I absolutely definately recommend this book!