From the outside, Eleanor and Edward Hamilton have the perfect life, but they’re harbouring a secret that threatens 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 a social rise, and it looks as though their future is bright.
But when Mabel, their young daughter, begins to develop debilitating seizures, they have to face the uncomfortable truth – Mabel has epilepsy: one of the ‘undesirable’ conditions that Edward campaigns against.
Forced to hide their daughter away so as not to jeopardise Edward’s life’s work, the couple must confront the truth of their past – and the secrets that have been buried.
Will Eleanor and Edward be able to fight for their family? Or will the truth destroy them?
Thank you to Graeme Williams for reaching out and inviting me to be involved in the blog tour celebrating paperback publication for The Hidden Child. You will have seen my last post was a very special piece by the author, Louise Fein sharing what a typical day looks like for her as a writer. I am guessing you are now eager to hear about her book, The Hidden Child, hence the separate review post.
You all know I am a fan of historical fiction so when I was contacted about this book there was no hesitation. This is a moving story, Eleanor and Edward are so happy living in a modern family villa in Surrey, we meet them in 1929. Edward, a professor is campaigning for a Eugenic society, for the improvement of the human race, in America this related more to race while in England this was about class, either way it was a nasty time when steps were advocated for forced sterilisation, limiting pregnancies dependent on race / class and the use of institutions to keep society in order and those with certain conditions locked away. This is something that I was familiar with in relation to Nazi Germany but truthfully had no idea how prolific this idea was across Europe and in the States.
But this thought provoking and I must say excellent novel really does bring to the fore how we have historically viewed those with certain conditions. I recall the move towards ‘Care in the Community’ and the closing down of large asylums – indeed a few local to me are now luxury apartments! Thinking around better integration for all, but conversations about steralisation still happen and we have a government which has introduced something akin to some of these ideas in their provision of welfare benefits.
But I have moved away from my review! The blurb tells you what you need to know, Edward and Eleanor have a daughter who develops epilepsy, how can this align with Edward’s views? Can it? And where does that leave Eleanor? This novel explores prevalent beliefs of the time, the family are upper class and this is reflected in their views. Treatment is also a factor and the notion of Doctor as expert.
Set in England in the late 1920s, society was patriarchal, there was a dominant upper class but for Edward it is all a web of lies. Emphasising the importance of status and how one is seen.
I would definitely recommend this one, but even more so for bookclubs with so many strands for discussion and various opinions.
This one is available to buy now in paperback. Happy Reading!
About the Author
Louise Fein holds an MA in Creative Writing from St Mary’s University. Her debut novel, People Like Us ( entitled Daughter of the Reich in the US/Canada), has been published in thirteen territories, was shortlisted for the RSL Christopher Bland Prize 2021 and the RNA Goldsboro Books Historical Romantic Novel Award 2021. Her books are predominantly set during the twentieth century and all of her books seek to explore issues that continue to be of relevance today.
The Hidden Child was inspired by the author’s own experience of raising a child affected by epilepsy. In imagining she had been born one hundred years earlier, into an era which believed in a flawed science, itself shaped by xenophobia, prejudice and fear, she hopes to raise awareness of the attitudes and stigma which persist and continue to impact our society today.