The Foundling by Stacey Halls

Genre: Historical fiction

Published: 2020

No. of Pages: 270

After achieving success with The Familiars, the bestselling debut hardback novel of 2019, Stacey Halls returns and graces the historical fiction scene with her second novel, The Foundling. Halls reaches new heights, and this is not one to miss.

Set in vibrant Georgian London with an explosive opening, Halls unravels a tale of motherhood, mystery, and deceit. The novel follows the story of Bess Bright, who leaves her new-born at The Foundling hospital and promises to return when she is able to provide and look after her. Only years later when she is ready to start her life with her child, is she told that her daughter has already been claimed. Bess embarks on an emotional and eventful journey in search of answers, and with hopes to rightfully reclaim her daughter. 

Alongside Bess’s mission, we are also introduced to Alexandra Callard, a reclusive, wealthy widow, who is struggling to connect with her own daughter. Interestingly, Halls allows for each woman’s story through a dual narrative which successfully elucidates the stark contrasts of the two women. Both narratives are wholly immersive as the reader witnesses life through each lens. Bess and Alexandra are equally complex and well-crafted characters that provide the story with significant emotional depth, evoking sympathy for both narrators.

One of Halls’s strengths is her ability to masterfully set the scene and evoke life in 18th century London. Each setting is atmospheric and infused with a variety of elements that take over all the senses; from lively markets with festering smells of fish and shrimp, to cold dreary nights, to the familiar warmth and quiet of a well-kept withdrawing room. 

In this busy, yet somewhat simpler time, Halls also displays the contrasts of society, further helping to situate the novel. She highlights the differences between high-society individuals and their luxurious lifestyles, to those that work tirelessly just to get by; both of which are heavily manifested in Alexandra and Bess, respectively.

Halls writes with an artistry which must be admired, if not envied. The Foundling is intriguing from the first page, where information is revealed and withheld at the perfect moments to constantly keep you guessing. Halls successfully keeps you gripped until the very end, and only then are you left to soak in the answers. 

Whether an historical fiction fan or seeking for an intricate mystery, The Foundling is a must-read. It will certainly be exciting to see what Halls creates next.

Purchase here on Amazon:

My book review also features in Aspects of History Issue 2 – a new magazine dedicated to history and historical fiction. Purchase issue 2 here:

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