The Hidden Child by Louise Fein | Book Review | #TheHiddenChild

Publisher: Head of Zeus
Format: Ebook, Hardback (2 September 2021) | Paperback (12 May 2022)
Pages: 496
Source: Copy received for review

ABOUT THE BOOK

From the outside, Eleanor and Edward Hamilton have the perfect life, but they’re harbouring a secret that threatens to fracture their entire world.

London, 1929.

Eleanor Hamilton is a dutiful mother, a caring sister and an adoring wife to a celebrated war hero. Her husband, Edward, is a pioneer in the eugenics movement. The Hamiltons are on the social rise, and it looks as though their future is bright.

When Mabel, their young daughter, begins to develop debilitating seizures, they have to face an uncomfortable truth: Mabel has epilepsy โ€“ one of the ‘undesirable’ conditions that Edward campaigns against.

Forced to hide their daughter away so as to not jeopardise Edward’s life’s work, the couple must confront the truth of their past โ€“ and the secrets that have been buried.

Will Eleanor and Edward be able to fight for their family? Or will the truth destroy them?

MY THOUGHTS

Eugenics is a subject I know little about but nonetheless I find it both horrifying and fascinating in concept. The Hidden Child isn’t the first fiction book I’ve read that covers the subject but its the first that deals with the subject in such detail. Here it is at the very heart of the story and focuses on a family that is in danger of tearing itself apart in the battle of beliefs over love.

Professor Edward Hamilton, a war hero, is a man of science – his specialism being in the field of psychology and education. He fervently believes in the future of eugenics to create a ‘survival of the fittest’ and to improve the human population by only using those most desirable characteristics and breeding out the worst – inherited diseases, and anybody regarded as being of ‘feeble mind’. His wife Eleanor, having her own tragic background at the hands of an ‘undesirable’ supports this, however when their beloved young daughter Mabel develops one of the illnesses that is regarded as undesirable, the collision course is set for a dilemma of heartbreaking proportions.

Hamilton is a wealthy man and they live a good life with well connected friends however all his money can’t protect him from what he must face with Mabel.

The Hidden Child gripped me from the first page. I knew that eugenics had been part of American society until recent decades and there are references to the Aryan concept being promoted by Germany’s Hitler but I didn’t realise that the UK had been pursuing its own policies to such a large degree.

The story is told from the alternative views of Edward and Eleanor with the occasional voice of Epilepsy itself, as if it were speaking from Mabel. This threw me the first time but it works well and is especially effective later on as the story develops.

The writing is just superb – the characters are beautifully captured – despite his status and intelligence, Edward is a tormented soul with a backstory of his own. Eleanor loves her husband dearly but has grave doubts about the way forward and the decisions that were being made about their daughter. My heart broke for Mabel and the story made me so angry that innocent people could be regarded as ‘disposable’ just because they didn’t conform to what a few privileged people believed should make a perfect society.

This was just a stunning read and there is so much more to the story that I can’t say here. It’s thought provoking and as well as being a fabulous fiction story to entertain, it also educated me. I loved it and it will without a doubt be one of my favourite books of the year.

There is a very interesting author’s note included which tells of her own experience with epilepsy which explains why she was able to write with such authenticity and also a note about the Eugenics movement and the mix of real and fictional characters in the story.

My thanks to Head of Zeus for the tour invite and review opportunity.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Louise Fein was born and brought up in London. She harboured a secret love of writing from a young age, preferring to live in her imagination than the real world. After a law degree, Louise worked in Hong Kong and Australia, travelling for a while through Asia and North America before settling back to a working life in London. She finally gave in to the urge to write, taking an MA in creative writing, and embarking on her first novel, Daughter of the Reich (named People Like Us in the UK and Commonwealth edition). The novel was inspired by the experience of her father’s family, who escaped from the Nazis and arrived in England as refugees in the 1930’s. Daughter of the Reich/People Like Us is being translated into 11 foreign languages, has been shortlisted for the 2021 RNA Historical Novel of the year Award, and has been long listed for the Not The Booker Prize.

Louise’s second novel, The Hidden Child, will be published in the Autumn of 2021. Louise lives in the beautiful English countryside with her husband, three children, two cats, small dog and the local wildlife who like to make an occasional appearance in the house. Louise is currently working on her third novel.


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Purchase links

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3bGFNvq

bookshop.org: https://bit.ly/3ewH2Pr

Waterstones: https://bit.ly/3tdYIDz

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