Growing up with a volatile and obsessive mother, Justine Cowan couldn’t get far enough away. It was only after her mother died that she found herself pulling at the threads of a story half-told – her mother’s upbringing as a foundling in the famous British institution. Haunted by this secret history, Justine travelled across the sea and deep into the past to discover the girl her mother once was.
Here, with the vividness of a true storyteller, she pieces together her mother’s childhood alongside the history of the Foundling Hospital: from its idealistic beginnings in the 18th century, famous patrons from Handel to Dickens, its shocking approach to childcare and role in human medical experimentation, and how it survived the Blitz only to close after the Second World War.
This was the environment that shaped a young girl then known as Dorothy Soames, who was left behind by a mother forced by stigma and shame to give up her child; who withstood years of physical and emotional abuse, dreaming of escape as German bombers circled the skies, unaware all along that her own mother was fighting to get her back.