“Like Joan of Arc, I give her visions.”
“Like Joan of Arc, I give her visions.”
Picking up a book penned by U. K. author Louise Fein is akin to having a chat around a cozy sunlit table, strong cups of hot coffee in hand as heartfelt issues are peeled back layer by layer.
I had the good fortune to have such a chat, albeit by Zoom, one bright but chilly afternoon last November when Fein’s first book, Daughter of the Reich was being released.
A former litigation lawyer who became a managing director of commodities before founding her own consulting company, Fein had her nose burrowed in a book from the time she was a young girl. Even back then she could hear the little voice in her head whispering softly to her that her real purpose in life was to write.
Read my interview with Louise as well as my review of Daughter of the Reich here:
Daughter of the Reich, Fein’s first novel, (2020), was shortlisted for The Royal Society of Literature’s Christopher Bland Prize 2021, and the RNA Historical Novel of the Year Award 2021.
In Fein’s new book, The Hidden Child, (Harper Collins), which is being released in Canada on October 19th, the backdrop of the story once again takes place in the early 20th Century.
Eleanor Hamilton and her husband, Edward, have a gregarious four-year-old daughter named Mabel. Edward is a war hero who is on his way to attaining great heights in the science world, so much so that he spends most of his weeks in London, lecturing on topics such as Inheritance and the Stream of Life to sold-out audiences at the prestigious Queen’s Hall. On Friday nights he makes his way home to his country estate where Eleanor and Mabel await him.
And so, within these two separate worlds, ones that usually only come together on the weekends, many secrets can be made and kept. We watch Edward as he hurries off to meet a mysterious woman in London, and to whom he gives money, but we aren’t introduced to her until deep into the novel.
Eleanor, a devoted and loving stay-at-home-in-the-country mother, holds tightly to her chest, away from Edward and even her servant staff, Mabel’s alarming, ever-worsening, debilitating condition.
It is a condition that Edward, a man of science, is advocating to include in his championing forward of the implementation of Eugenics. Distressingly, this hypothesis is gaining traction with Edward’s peers and colleagues.
The aim of the Eugenics movement is to improve the human race by populating it with only the ‘fittest of the fittest’ which includes suppressing reproduction of the least desirable, which in laymen’s terms means sterilization.
“It is a science inspired by Darwin’s theory of ‘survival of the fittest.’
Unbeknownst to Edward, (Eleanor has kept Mable’s seizures a tightly held secret from her husband), his cherished daughter, Mabel, falls into this category.
There is, as Princess Diana once said, a third person in this family unit, and that is the voice of the ‘disease’ that Mabel has. It is a technique that Fein uses to prodigious effect to describe what epilepsy is and how it presents, while at the same time adding a shroud of mystery, intrigue and full-blown worry around it for the reader.
“Diseases like me are hard to avoid. I hide away in the shadows until one day it begins. A feather touch. Light as the brush of a moth’s wing or the faintest breath of a newborn…..An unwanted guest, crawling through the dark recesses of a loved one’s mind.”
Adding to these layers of intrigue, is the looing financial crash of 1929, the actualization of which would have devastating consequences for this wealthy, status-centric family.
Louise Fein tells stories that need to be told but in a way that cuddles the reader as she instills a sense of awareness around the issues that threatened and at times took over history in our not-so-distant past.
The Hidden Child is the story of a mother’s unquestioning love for her child, and a husband’s epiphany around the things that matter most in life.
As an over-the-top avid reader, reviewer and author myself, I am well aware of the thousands of ‘reading’ options out there. There are of course some books that we read and enjoy, and there are others that resonate and niggle at our sense of advocacy and awareness. The Hidden Child definitely falls into this second category for me. In fact I know, that after reading Fein’s second novel, that as soon as her next book comes out I will be signing up to pre-order it.