The theme of this compelling novel is the now-historical institution of the ‘mother and baby home’. The successor to workhouses, these homes for poor unmarried mothers in Britain and Ireland from the 1950s to the 70s were often run by religious organisations and have only recently been exposed as abusive and in some cases murderous. Emily Gunnis has admirably based a work of fiction upon this emotive and shocking subject.
The story switches between different times and following different characters. However, the main protagonist is Sam Harper, a 25-year-old journalist and single mother who is determined to investigate a former maternity home which is about to be demolished. A personal connection to her family, some unexplained deaths and a mystery involving a retired chat show host fuel her pursuit of the truth. I thought the plot was a little over-complicated but I just about managed to keep up.
This is the kind of book that stays with you forever. It’s almost too heartbreaking to read but I thought it was very well written and highlighted a subject which should be out in the open.
First published in 2018.