I’m delighted today to be joining the blog tour for The Love Child by Rachel Hore: published on 5th September by Simon & Schuster, the book is now available in hardback and for kindle, with the paperback to follow in January 2020. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy, provided via netgalley.
I’ve enjoyed Rachel’s books for many years now, since discovering her wonderful writing with The Memory Garden way back in 2008 – it was a particular pleasure to finally meet her at the Books and the City blogger event in February. I’ve read (and loved) almost everything she’s ever written – The Glass Painter’s Daughter, The Dream House, A Place of Secrets (my favourite for quite a long time), The Silent Tide (in 2013, this became my new favourite – you’ll find my review here), A Week in Paris (short review here) and the excellent Last Letter Home (review here). I really am an unashamed fan – but I’m sure you can tell! Rachel read a taster of this new book at the February event – and my goodness, it’s been a long wait until publication, but the final product certainly didn’t disappoint…
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?
Brilliantly evoking the changing attitudes of the time, The Love Child is a novel about love, family, separation, despair and hope, full of tenderness and deep feeling.
This was an enthralling read, and I enjoyed every moment. With its dual timeline, I particularly liked the fact that the timelines didn’t alternate by chapter, but the story was told in larger slices and their convergence, as the years passed, was slowly led up to. Both threads are equally engaging, dealing with issues of identity and finding yourself, with a wholly authentic feel of the prevailing attitudes of the period: I found it particularly interesting that lingering Victorian standards weren’t relaxed enough to forgive the desperateness of war, forcing the separation that drives the story.
Alice’s experiences of training to be a doctor demonstrated an immense depth of research and insight, the recreation of her experiences quite fascinating to read – but the historical authenticity is balanced by a strong and determined character, so likeable and so well drawn, her past experiences slowly revealed. Irene too is fascinating – adopted and always something of an outsider, discovering the secrets of her past, searching for her birth mother and that sense of belonging.
The supporting characters are superbly drawn too. I particularly enjoyed Irene’s relationship with Tom and his artist mother, providing an interesting glimpse of a different lifestyle, with a particular focus as the story unfolds on the way the art is impacted by the artist’s state of mind. And I must mention both Alice’s and Irene’s (largely horrendous) mother figures – mother/daughter relationships are very much a theme, and they are both very much products of their time and upbringing, but goodness, how they complicate the story’s resolution. There’s a particularly strong sense of place to the book too, with Farthingsea particularly well portrayed.
The book’s resolution does rather hinge on a series of happy accidents and coincidences, but I can totally forgive that – this is fiction after all, and the twists, turns, and near misses work very well indeed as a dramatic device. They also make the book totally unputdownable – the equivalent of wanting to shout “she’s behind you” when the characters repeatedly look in the wrong direction entirely. I’ve always found Rachel Hore to be a quite wonderful storyteller, with a perfect touch in the emotional content, and her talent certainly shines through in this one.
Isn’t it lovely when a book delivers all that you hope it will? I really enjoyed this one – a “highly recommended” from me…
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 latest novel, Last Letter Home, was a Sunday Times bestseller and a Richard and Judy Book Club pick for 2018.