The Foundling explores families, secrets, class, equality, power and the meaning of motherhood.
Two women from different worlds. And a secret that will change everything . . .
London, 1754. Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara 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.
This was our first audiobook and we all enjoyed listening to it. The descriptive writing and characterisations were engaging with power, privilege, isolation, poverty, love and trauma as the key themes. As an example of historical fiction, we each responded differently to how the basic, factual framework was treated. Some felt that the ending in particular was improbable given the time and social mores, others enjoyed the ‘happy ending’, feeling that the characters had developed empathy and understanding. The story touched each of us and led to meaningful discussion.
In 1901, the word bondmaid was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it.
Motherless and irrepressibly curious, Esme spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of lexicographers are gathering words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary.
Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day, she sees a slip containing the word bondmaid flutter to the floor unclaimed. Esme seizes the word and hides it in an old wooden trunk that belongs to her friend, Lizzie, a young servant in the big house. Esme begins to collect other words from the Scriptorium that are misplaced, discarded or have been neglected by the dictionary men. They help her make sense of the world.
Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women’s experiences often go unrecorded. She begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.
Our group thoroughly enjoyed this novel. We loved the descriptive writing, the historical perspective, the believable characters and the gentle, interesting way the emancipation of women was treated. We savoured the warmth of the relationships between families and women. It was a love story that involved people, places and language. The treatment of women’s suffrage ran throughout the story but we weren’t ‘hit over the head’ with it. We were connected to it in a subtle, sympathetic way as we observed it through the life of the main character and her observations of others and understanding of the use and meaning of words. Learning how the dictionary was compiled was also fascinating. A great read.
How can a child disappear from under the care of four playgroup mums?
One Thursday morning, Lexie Parker dashes to the shop for biscuits, leaving Bella in the safe care of the other mums in the playgroup.
Six minutes later, Bella is gone.
Police and media descend on the tiny village of Merrigang on the edge of Canberra. Locals unite to search the dense bushland. But as the investigation continues, relationships start to fracture, online hate messages target Lexie, and the community is engulfed by fear.
Is Bella’s disappearance connected to the angry protests at Parliament House? What secrets are the parents hiding? And why does a local teacher keep a photo of Bella in his lounge room?
What happened in those six minutes and where is Bella?
The clock is ticking…
Bella has gone missing after she was left in the care of the playgroup mums Lexie meets up with once a week. She was only gone for six minutes. Where is she? What has happened to her?
As mothers, this would be our worst nightmare! Very relatable story, with lots of twists and turns that kept most of us guessing to the end. A few of our readers picked who had done what, but not necessarily why that had done it. Some of our readers found it a little hard to empathise with the main characters. We thought the premise was great, but it left us wanting a little more. Overall, we thought the book was well written. Another good book, set in Australia, from a first time Australian author.
We’d recommend this for readers who like Liane Moriarty books.
After I finished writing the blog post for the February wrap-up, and told you all what I was planning on reading, I literally changed my mind as soon as I clicked post. I blame Kate, one of my reading colleagues here at the library, for filling my head with even more reading suggestions.
This was such a beautifully written book. Although a fictional take on what Elizabeth Macarthur might have thought and said, I found myself believing whole-heartedly that Elizabeth’s voice was real!
What if Elizabeth Macarthur – wife of the notorious John Macarthur, wool baron in the earliest days of Sydney – had written a shockingly frank secret memoir? And what if novelist Kate Grenville had miraculously found and published it? That’s the starting point for A Room Made of Leaves, a playful dance of possibilities between the real and the invented. Marriage to a ruthless bully, the impulses of her heart, the search for power in a society that gave women none – this Elizabeth Macarthur manages her complicated life with spirit and passion, cunning and sly wit. Her memoir lets us hear – at last! – what one of those seemingly demure women from history might really have thought. At the centre of A Room Made of Leaves is one of the most toxic issues of our own age – the seductive appeal of false stories. This book may be set in the past, but it’s just as much about the present, where secrets and lies have the dangerous power to shape reality.
I am really struggling to write my review for ‘Normal People’, even after discussing the book with my colleague Sarah. Therefore, I will keep it short and to the point. I loved the writing! Just was not interested in the storyline. I am going to watch the screen adaptation and see if this changes my opinion.
Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in the west of Ireland, but the similarities end there. In school, Connell is popular and well-liked, while Marianne is a loner. But when the two strike up a conversation – awkward but electrifying – something life-changing begins.
Once again, Paige Toon managed to keep me glued to the pages until I had finished the whole book. How can one writer manage to write one amazing book, after another? Magic if you ask me! If you enjoy Chick Lit and haven’t read any of Paige Toon’s books give them a try. You will not be disappointed.
Alice is 18 and about to start university while Joe’s life is seemingly going nowhere. A Dorset summer, a chance meeting, and the two of them fall into step as if they have known each other forever. But their idyll is shattered, suddenly, unexpectedly. Alice heads off to Cambridge and slowly picks up the pieces of her broken heart. Joe is gone; she cannot find him. When she catches the attention of Lukas – gorgeous, gifted, rich boy Lukas – she is carried along by his charm, swept up in his ambitious plans for a future together. Then Joe is there, once more, but out of reach in a way that Alice could never have imagined. Life has moved on, the divide between them is now so great. Surely it is far too late to relive those perfect summer days of long ago?
I have not finished this one yet, but I am more than half way through and enjoying it. I like the characters and want to know how their story ends.
What do you get when you cross a painfully awkward son, lofty comedic ambition and a dead best friend? Norman. Norman and Jax are a legendary comedy duo in the making, with a five-year plan to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe by the time they’re fifteen. But then Jax dies before they even turn twelve. Norman’s mum Sadie knows she won’t win Mother of the Year anytime soon, and she really doesn’t know, or care, who Norman’s father is. But her heart is broken when she discovers her grieving son’s revised plan – ‘Find Dad’ and ‘Get to the Edinburgh Fringe’. If meeting his dad and performing at the Festival are the two things that will help Norman through this devastating time, then Sadie is going to make them happen. So, mother and son set off from Cornwall, with their friend Leonard in his vintage Austin Maxi, on a pilgrimage to Edinburgh – to honour Jax and to track down a few maybe-fathers on the way…
We were lucky enough to host Julietta Henderson in an online author talk. You can check out the recording here at parra.city/nswplevents
Now! Down to the business of April’s to be read, thriller list. I am hoping to read at least one of the books listed below.
With both of us being Australian history buffs it was no surprise that we found Enid’s story intriguing! Robert Wainwright wrote in such a way that Enid jumped to life off the pages of the book. In fact I am going to listen to the eAudiobook version on my daily walk and see if it offers a different perspective to Enid’s character. My fascination with Australian history seems to grow all the time. In fact my mother-in-law recommended I read ‘Kings in Grass Castles‘ by Mary Durack one of her favourite books of all time. ‘True North: the Story of Mary and Elizabeth Durack‘ by Brenda Niall looks like another book for my ever growing TBR pile!
People went on about death bringing friends together, but it wasn’t true. The graveyard, the stony dirt – that’s what it was like now . . . Despite the three women knowing each other better than their own siblings, Sylvie’s death had opened up strange caverns of distance between them.
Four older women have a lifelong friendship of the best kind: loving, practical, frank and steadfast. But when Sylvie dies, the ground shifts dangerously for the remaining three. Can they survive together without her?
They are Jude, a once-famous restaurateur, Wendy, an acclaimed public intellectual, and Adele, a renowned actress now mostly out of work. Struggling to recall exactly why they’ve remained close all these years, the grieving women gather for Christmas at Sylvie’s old beach house – not for festivities, but to clean the place out before it is sold.
Without Sylvie to maintain the group’s delicate equilibrium, frustrations build and painful memories press in. Fraying tempers, an elderly dog, unwelcome guests and too much wine collide in a storm that brings long-buried hurts to the surface – and threatens to sweep away their friendship for good.
The Weekend explores growing old and growing up, and what happens when we’re forced to uncover the lies we tell ourselves. Sharply observed and excruciatingly funny, this is a jewel of a book: a celebration of tenderness and friendship that is nothing short of a masterpiece.
For those of you who prefer to read or listen online ‘The Weekend‘ is also available to download as a multi-access title in eBook and eAudiobook format from our rbDigital library!
Look out for our December Book Club wrap-up when I share our plans for ‘Reading Together’ in 2021!