I really can’t begin this review without mentioning that gorgeous cover. Aren’t the colours just beautiful? And I have to say the story inside is rather gorgeous too.
It is mostly set after the First World War when we meet Alice, who lost her fiance in that War but at only 19 years old, had his child. In common with many women at that time, she was compelled to give the child away. The second main character is Irene, a little girl adopted by Edith and Philip. Growing up she always felt that she didn’t fit in and in particular did not get on with her mother.
I can only imagine what it must be like to be in the position where you have to give your child away. As we see through Alice, it is something which must stay with you every moment and always influence the rest of your life. My heart went out to Alice and I really admired her for the way she lived her life after this loss. She had the opportunity to study to become a doctor and despite disapproval and disdain from many of her male peers, she was determined to succeed and to make things better for women’s health, their reproductive health in particular.
And this was something which I found fascinating throughout the book: the insight into the way that women’s lives have changed over those 100 years or so. In the early 20th century women really had very few rights, even regarding their decisions about having children. Setting aside the fact that the contraceptive pill was a long way off, few people would even talk about family planning and if they did, it was most definitely in the context of marriage. Alice could see how wearing this was for women, having one baby after another. This was particularly true for poorer women. Alice to me embodied the changing social climate for women. She was in a privileged position in that she was able to study at university and had some degree of independence. She was able to make her own way in a world which was changing rapidly. Her education gave her choices which were often denied to others. Having to give up her daughter, Stella, really motivated her to make a difference in other women’s lives.
Irene was another character I really felt for. Almost from the moment her adoptive mother Edith met her, the two did not bond. Irene was closer to her adoptive father than her mother and as she grew older, she was very aware that she was a cuckoo in the nest. I was so pleased when she met another wonderful character, Miss Juniper, who just accepted Irene for who she was and showed her that more unorthodox lifestyles were possible.
I don’t want to say too much more about the plot as I don’t want to give anything away. I loved the way the story moved between Alice and Irene and also gave a glimpse into Alice’s past. This is a beautifully told story depicting a time of rapid social change for women and showing how they made their way in the world in the aftermath of The Great War. With themes of motherhood and loss, determination and new opportunities, social history and women’s rights, love and forgiveness, I found this a most enjoyable, poignant and compelling read.
My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to publishers Simon and Schuster for my review copy of the book. The Love Child is published today in hardback and ebook formats with the paperback to follow in January. You should be able to buy or order it from your usual book retailer or you can order a copy online from Hive (where every purchase supports your local High Street) by clicking here. Or if you prefer a Kindle copy, you can order that by clicking here.
From the back of the book
A young mother’s sacrifice. A child’s desperate search for the truth . . .
When nineteen-year-old Alice Copeman becomes pregnant, she is forced by her father and stepmother to give up the baby. She simply cannot be allowed to bring shame upon her family. But all Alice can think about is the small, kitten-like child she gave away, and she mourns the father, a young soldier, so beloved, who will never have the chance to know his daughter.
Edith and Philip Burns, a childless couple, yearn for a child of their own. When they secretly adopt a baby girl, Irene, their life together must surely be complete. Irene grows up knowing that she is different from other children, but no one will tell her the full truth.
Putting hopes of marriage and children behind her, Alice embarks upon a pioneering medical career, striving to make her way in a male-dominated world. Meanwhile, Irene struggles to define her own life, eventually leaving her Suffolk home to find work in London.
As two extraordinary stories intertwine across two decades, will secrets long-buried at last come to light?
About the author
Rachel Hore worked in London publishing for many years before moving with her family to Norwich, where she teaches publishing and creative writing at the University of East Anglia. She is married to the writer D. J. Taylor and they have three sons. Her previous novels are The Dream House, The Memory Garden, The Glass Painter’s Daughter, which was shortlisted for the 2010 Romantic Novel of the Year award, A Place of Secrets, which was picked by Richard and Judy for their book club, A Gathering Storm, which was shortlisted for the RONA Historical Novel of the Year 2012 and the latest bestseller, The Silent Tide.