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The Hidden Child

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Londoners Eleanor and Edward Hamilton have wealth, status, and a happy marriage—but the 1929 financial crash is looming, and they’re harboring a terrible, shameful secret. How far are they willing to go to protect their charmed life—even if it means abandoning their child to a horrific fate?  Eleanor Hamilton is happily married and mother to a beautiful four-year-old girl, Londoners Eleanor and Edward Hamilton have wealth, status, and a happy marriage—but the 1929 financial crash is looming, and they’re harboring a terrible, shameful secret. How far are they willing to go to protect their charmed life—even if it means abandoning their child to a horrific fate?  Eleanor Hamilton is happily married and mother to a beautiful four-year-old girl, Mabel. Her wealthy husband, Edward, a celebrated war hero, is a leading light in the burgeoning Eugenics movement—the very ideas that will soon be embraced by Hitler—and is increasingly important in designing education policy for Great Britain. But when Edward and Eleanor’s otherwise perfectly healthy daughter develops debilitating epileptic seizures, their world fractures. Mabel’s shameful illness must be hidden or Edward’s life’s work will be in jeopardy and the family’s honor will be shattered. When Eleanor discovers Edward has been keeping secrets, she calls into question everything she believed about genetic inferiority, and her previous unshakeable faith in her husband disintegrates. Alarmed, distressed, and no longer able to bear the family’s burden, she takes matters into her own hands.


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Londoners Eleanor and Edward Hamilton have wealth, status, and a happy marriage—but the 1929 financial crash is looming, and they’re harboring a terrible, shameful secret. How far are they willing to go to protect their charmed life—even if it means abandoning their child to a horrific fate?  Eleanor Hamilton is happily married and mother to a beautiful four-year-old girl, Londoners Eleanor and Edward Hamilton have wealth, status, and a happy marriage—but the 1929 financial crash is looming, and they’re harboring a terrible, shameful secret. How far are they willing to go to protect their charmed life—even if it means abandoning their child to a horrific fate?  Eleanor Hamilton is happily married and mother to a beautiful four-year-old girl, Mabel. Her wealthy husband, Edward, a celebrated war hero, is a leading light in the burgeoning Eugenics movement—the very ideas that will soon be embraced by Hitler—and is increasingly important in designing education policy for Great Britain. But when Edward and Eleanor’s otherwise perfectly healthy daughter develops debilitating epileptic seizures, their world fractures. Mabel’s shameful illness must be hidden or Edward’s life’s work will be in jeopardy and the family’s honor will be shattered. When Eleanor discovers Edward has been keeping secrets, she calls into question everything she believed about genetic inferiority, and her previous unshakeable faith in her husband disintegrates. Alarmed, distressed, and no longer able to bear the family’s burden, she takes matters into her own hands.

30 review for The Hidden Child

  1. 4 out of 5

    Karren Sandercock

    Eleanor is married to world war one hero Edward Hamilton and they have a four year old daughter Mabel. The Hamilton's live in a beautiful home in the English countryside, they own a London apartment and are well off. Edward’s a professor, he’s interested in psychology and the science of eugenics. For me this was a rather controversial topic, using Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest, adults and children would be put into categories and it also involves more controversial ideas and practic Eleanor is married to world war one hero Edward Hamilton and they have a four year old daughter Mabel. The Hamilton's live in a beautiful home in the English countryside, they own a London apartment and are well off. Edward’s a professor, he’s interested in psychology and the science of eugenics. For me this was a rather controversial topic, using Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest, adults and children would be put into categories and it also involves more controversial ideas and practices. Both Edward and Eleanor believe in eugenics and for Eleanor she has a personal reason for her beliefs. When Mable starts having funny turns, she goes blank, mentions a lady she sees during her episodes and Eleanor puts it down to her being tired. Mabel she has a fit, the Hamilton’s can’t ignore their daughter’s condition, they seek medical advice and she’s diagnosed with epilepsy. Edward’s very concerned about his career, Eleanor’s in shock, and she has no idea how limited and horrible the treatment was for epileptics in the 1920’s. This cause’s immense tension in the couple’s relationship, when Eleanor discovers Edward has been keeping a secret from her for over twelve years and she starts to question his honesty and his beliefs. Eleanor's desperate to help her daughter, she loves her and the doctor treating Mable won’t listen to her at all, and she comes up with a plan and is determined to save her. To be honest, half way through The Hidden Child, I wasn’t sure I could finish the book, I found the whole idea of the science of genetics and eugenics horrifying, the medical treatment and attitudes towards children especially distressing. However I continued reading the story, I can understand why Louise Fein included these topics in the book, it was well written and you certainly question the ideas, morals and medical treatment at the time. I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review and five stars from me. https://karrenreadsbooks.blogspot.com/

  2. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    England, 1928. Eleanor Hamilton is happily married. Her wealthy husband takes a leading part in the burgeoning Eugenics movement. It’s about improving the health and wealth of the nations. Those who are in some way not classified as higher intelligence should be in a way handled as they lead toward a disastrous future. But the Hamilton’s lives get complicated when their four-year-old daughter develops debilitating epileptic seizures. Not only that, those idealistic and questionable ideas get emb England, 1928. Eleanor Hamilton is happily married. Her wealthy husband takes a leading part in the burgeoning Eugenics movement. It’s about improving the health and wealth of the nations. Those who are in some way not classified as higher intelligence should be in a way handled as they lead toward a disastrous future. But the Hamilton’s lives get complicated when their four-year-old daughter develops debilitating epileptic seizures. Not only that, those idealistic and questionable ideas get embraced by Hitler. This leads to Edward’s concerns about his career and Eleanor’s shocking discovery of epileptic treatment at the time. There is also a secret causing a friction between the couple. Eleanor desperate to help her daughter takes some things into her own hands. The story vividly presents the horrifying movement and medical “treatments.” It can be a distressing read at times, but it is believably portrayed. I struggled to fully connect with the characters. There are tiny parts giving flashbacks about them, but for me this wasn’t enough to get me attached to any character. I wished they were more fleshed-out before introducing the whole concept of the story. Source: ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gill Paul

    It’s every parent’s nightmare that one day, out of the blue, your toddler suffers an epileptic seizure: eyes rolling back and body thrashing and jerking as if possessed. Now imagine it’s the 1920s and your husband is a eugenicist, who believes that genetic weaknesses, such as epilepsy, should be bred out of the population by introducing forced sterilisation programmes and institutionalising sufferers. This is the premise of Louise Fein’s stunning new novel, and it had me hooked from the first pa It’s every parent’s nightmare that one day, out of the blue, your toddler suffers an epileptic seizure: eyes rolling back and body thrashing and jerking as if possessed. Now imagine it’s the 1920s and your husband is a eugenicist, who believes that genetic weaknesses, such as epilepsy, should be bred out of the population by introducing forced sterilisation programmes and institutionalising sufferers. This is the premise of Louise Fein’s stunning new novel, and it had me hooked from the first page. Confession time: I often cheat by reading Authors’ Notes before I start a novel, and in this case I found out that Louise Fein has personal experience of an epileptic child. It’s obvious she knows what she’s talking about in her acutely observed descriptions of little Mabel’s eyes clouding over, her jerky movements, and the way her behaviour starts to regress. The story is told from the points of view of her mother, Eleanor, and her father, Edward, with occasional short chapters from the point of view of Epilepsy itself, a malign, opportunistic kind of demon. As Mabel’s health gets progressively worse, the story switches to the deterioration of her parent’s marriage. Lies are uncovered, secrets revealed, and they each find they didn’t truly know their spouse. We learn about epilepsy and the eugenics movement alongside them, and I found this fascinating; I love novels I learn something new from. I won’t include any spoilers, but your heart will break over what happens to poor little Mabel and over the choices her parents make. Like Louise Fein’s debut novel, People Like Us, it encourages us to imagine what we would do in the characters’ positions. It’s pacy, well-written, and utterly engaging. I can’t wait to see what this author writes next; she has leapt straight into my ‘favourites’ list.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews

    Secrets….Edward Hamilton has one and now he and his wife have one. The secret they share together is that their daughter has epilepsy. He has to hide it because he is in charge of a study of eugenics and is on the committee for Great Britain’s educational system. It was sad hearing they were ashamed their daughter had epilepsy and kept her hidden from everyone. The treatment back then was awful, and my heart was broken for Mable. My heart broke for Eleanor too, and I didn’t like Edward or trust him Secrets….Edward Hamilton has one and now he and his wife have one. The secret they share together is that their daughter has epilepsy. He has to hide it because he is in charge of a study of eugenics and is on the committee for Great Britain’s educational system. It was sad hearing they were ashamed their daughter had epilepsy and kept her hidden from everyone. The treatment back then was awful, and my heart was broken for Mable. My heart broke for Eleanor too, and I didn’t like Edward or trust him. All he cared about was his image and his job. We follow the family as they move through their days worrying about Mabel and as a new baby arrives. The chapters where epilepsy speaks was unique and very interesting to have that in the book. I enjoyed the chapters about Eleanor more than the ones that featured Edward and The International Congress of Eugenics. The information about this Congress was very distressing and I never knew about it. THE HIDDEN CHILD hit home about the epilepsy because my brother has epilepsy, and I remember how frightening it was when he had a seizure. The book is well written and well researched with many ethical issues being addressed as well. Historical fiction fans as well as women’s fiction fans will enjoy this book. 4/5 This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Louise Wilson

    Eleanor Hamilton is happily married and a mother to a beautiful four year old girl, Mabel. her wealthy husband Edward, a celebrated war hero, is a leading light in the burgeoning eugenics movement - the very ideas that will soon be embraced by Hitler - and is increasingly important in designing the education policy for Great Britain. But when Edward and Eleanor's otherwise healthy daughter develops debilitating seizures, their world fractures. Mabel's shameful illness must be hidden or Edward wi Eleanor Hamilton is happily married and a mother to a beautiful four year old girl, Mabel. her wealthy husband Edward, a celebrated war hero, is a leading light in the burgeoning eugenics movement - the very ideas that will soon be embraced by Hitler - and is increasingly important in designing the education policy for Great Britain. But when Edward and Eleanor's otherwise healthy daughter develops debilitating seizures, their world fractures. Mabel's shameful illness must be hidden or Edward will be in jeopardy and the family's honour will be shattered. Set in the 1920s: What an intriguing and thought provoking read this book is. The author has done her research before writing this book. The story is told in alternating chapters by Edward and Eleanor's perspectives. Edward and Eleanor are both members of the eugenics society and when their four year old daughter has epileptic seizures, they wonder how she can be fixed and if they can keep her hidden. The pace is steady and I quickly became invested in Edward, Eleanor and Mabel's story. We also get mini chapters from the voice of epilepsy. I quite enjoyed this book. I would like to thank #NetGalley #HeadOfZeus and the author #LouiseFein for my ARC of #TheHiddenChild in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Martie Nees Record

    Mini-Review This historical fiction looks at the eugenics movement, which promoted selective breeding by removing unwanted genetic features from human beings. In 1929, “Eleanor Hamilton is happily married and mother to a beautiful four-year-old girl, Mabel. Her wealthy husband, Edward, a celebrated war hero, is a leading light in the burgeoning eugenics movement—the very ideas that will soon be embraced by Hitler—and is increasingly important in designing education policy for Great Britain.” (Fro Mini-Review This historical fiction looks at the eugenics movement, which promoted selective breeding by removing unwanted genetic features from human beings. In 1929, “Eleanor Hamilton is happily married and mother to a beautiful four-year-old girl, Mabel. Her wealthy husband, Edward, a celebrated war hero, is a leading light in the burgeoning eugenics movement—the very ideas that will soon be embraced by Hitler—and is increasingly important in designing education policy for Great Britain.” (From book blurb). Their four-year-old daughter begins to have seizures and is diagnosed with epilepsy. The novel puts a personal spin on the horrors of selective breeding. This is a heart-wrenching tale with an unbelievable ending. This reviewer’s side note: Eugenics was popular in America during much of the first half of the twentieth century, yet it earned its negative association mainly from Adolf Hilter’s obsessive attempts to create a superior Aryan race. America discredited the movement until following the horrors of Nazi Germany. I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review. Find all my book reviews at: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list… https://books6259.wordpress.com/ https://www.barnesandnoble.com/review… https://www.facebook.com/martie.neesr… https://twitter.com/NeesRecord\ https://www.instagram.com/martie6947/ https://www.amazon.com/

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chandra Sundeep

    The Hidden Child by Louise Fein is a poignant Historical fiction novel. The author’s experiences while raising a child with epilepsy are the inspiration behind this story. Though it’s a fictional piece, at the heart of the story is the eugenics movement which propagated selective breeding by eliminating undesirable genetic traits among humans. Edward, one of the staunch advocates of this movement, his wife Eleanor and daughter Mabel are the central characters in this though-provoking read. Edward The Hidden Child by Louise Fein is a poignant Historical fiction novel. The author’s experiences while raising a child with epilepsy are the inspiration behind this story. Though it’s a fictional piece, at the heart of the story is the eugenics movement which propagated selective breeding by eliminating undesirable genetic traits among humans. Edward, one of the staunch advocates of this movement, his wife Eleanor and daughter Mabel are the central characters in this though-provoking read. Edward is involved in researching on eugenics, and is about to present his findings to the Eugenics Society. But things turn topsy-turvy when 4-year-old Mabel is diagnosed with epilepsy. To protect his social standing and honor, he takes some drastic steps to ensure the debilitating disease remains a secret. Eleanor, though initially supports the eugenics movement, Mabel’s condition and a few chance discoveries force her to think otherwise and lead to a change in her actions. Edward’s shameful secrets from the past continue to torment him, until the day he comes clean to the world, and Eleanor. As much as the subject is thought provoking and disturbing, it is the impeccable narration which spoke to me tremendously. Fein’s writing skills are exemplary. Her vocabulary and style are impressive; especially in the way she has paid attention to details and has woven intricate and unforgettable characters amidst realistic settings. The story is set in the late 1920s, and I was transported to the distant era with an ease. This is what I need the most from any historical fiction – the feeling of being in the story. Fein describes with utmost honesty the lives of the rich, poor and diseased. She details the demeaning and appalling attitudes of the elite towards the people affected with disorders. Apart from the settings, it is the characters themselves which made this novel a memorable read. Although there are many people involved in the story, it doesn’t get confusing. They all have their distinct personality and place in the story. Eleanor’s character changes impressively. The way she metamorphoses into a strong woman, a confident wife and mother is inspiring and emotional. Edward, though stubborn at first, realizes his folly and undergoes a transformation himself. And lastly, it is the positive and satisfying ending which made me quite happy. The Hidden Child is a well-researched and well-written novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I received an ARC from NetGalley and Head of Zeus in exchange for my honest review. 4.5 stars rounded to 5. BLOG

  8. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Eugenics is a subject I know little about but nonetheless I find it both horrifying and fascinating in concept. The Hidden Child isn’t the first fiction book I’ve read that covers the subject but its the first that deals with the subject in such detail. Here it is at the very heart of the story and focuses on a family that is in danger of tearing itself apart in the battle of beliefs over love. Professor Edward Hamilton, a war hero, is a man of science – his specialism being in the field of psych Eugenics is a subject I know little about but nonetheless I find it both horrifying and fascinating in concept. The Hidden Child isn’t the first fiction book I’ve read that covers the subject but its the first that deals with the subject in such detail. Here it is at the very heart of the story and focuses on a family that is in danger of tearing itself apart in the battle of beliefs over love. Professor Edward Hamilton, a war hero, is a man of science – his specialism being in the field of psychology and education. He fervently believes in the future of eugenics to create a ‘survival of the fittest’ and to improve the human population by only using those most desirable characteristics and breeding out the worst – inherited diseases, and anybody regarded as being of ‘feeble mind’. His wife Eleanor, having her own tragic background at the hands of an ‘undesirable’ supports this, however when their beloved young daughter Mabel develops one of the illnesses that is regarded as undesirable, the collision course is set for a dilemma of heartbreaking proportions. Hamilton is a wealthy man and they live a good life with well connected friends however all his money can’t protect him from what he must face with Mabel. The Hidden Child gripped me from the first page. I knew that eugenics had been part of American society until recent decades and there are references to the Aryan concept being promoted by Germany’s Hitler but I didn’t realise that the UK had been pursuing its own policies to such a large degree. The story is told from the alternative views of Edward and Eleanor with the occasional voice of Epilepsy itself, as if it were speaking from Mabel. This threw me the first time but it works well and is especially effective later on as the story develops. The writing is just superb – the characters are beautifully captured – despite his status and intelligence, Edward is a tormented soul with a backstory of his own. Eleanor loves her husband dearly but has grave doubts about the way forward and the decisions that were being made about their daughter. My heart broke for Mabel and the story made me so angry that innocent people could be regarded as ‘disposable’ just because they didn’t conform to what a few privileged people believed should make a perfect society. This was just a stunning read and there is so much more to the story that I can’t say here. It’s thought provoking and as well as being a fabulous fiction story to entertain, it also educated me. I loved it and it will without a doubt be one of my favourite books of the year. There is a very interesting author’s note included which tells of her own experience with epilepsy which explains why she was able to write with such authenticity and also a note about the Eugenics movement and the mix of real and fictional characters in the story.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andie

    Another stunning book by Louise Fein! The Hamilton’s have a secret. Eleanor’s husband Edward is a pioneer in the eugenics movement leading up to WWII—powerful, smart, and revered. But when their daughter begins to show signs of epilepsy, their lives turn upside down. Now they must face the truth, and the consequences of his work as it gains notoriety. A captivating story with beautifully drawn characters and an intriguing plot—a must-read for historical fiction fans.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    The Hidden Child by Louise Fein is an excellent, thought-provoking historical fiction novel that is truly engrossing and that kept me interested from beginning to end. I really enjoyed Ms. Fein's previous novel, Daughter of the Reich, so I was excited to be able to read this book as well. This is a darker, more serious read then a lot of the current WWII era fiction that is present at this time. It is however very important that the subject of eugenics and what was attempted in the past continue The Hidden Child by Louise Fein is an excellent, thought-provoking historical fiction novel that is truly engrossing and that kept me interested from beginning to end. I really enjoyed Ms. Fein's previous novel, Daughter of the Reich, so I was excited to be able to read this book as well. This is a darker, more serious read then a lot of the current WWII era fiction that is present at this time. It is however very important that the subject of eugenics and what was attempted in the past continue to be remembered for the morality of the human race in general for the future. I have read quite a bit on the subject of eugenics and "selection" in reference to the mindset, proclamations, rules, and atrocities that were pushed and broadcasted from the Nazi propaganda machine in the 1920s-1940s. The fact that the ideals became so widespread is just astounding looking back at it now. The author takes this aspect of history and creates a personal narrative incorporating this. The story of Mabel, Eleanor, and Edward Hamilton and their specific situation in England was hard to read, but yet fascinating at the same time. What Edward had "believed" in and had supported was really shattered when it then was at direct odds with the illness of his child and what was at one time impersonal and politics, then became really, really personal. The inner and outer struggles that occurred within Eleanor and Edward individually, between each other, and in respect to Edward's political and societal statements were fundamentally at odds. I enjoyed how at least in this case the uplifting and satisfying ending. Unfortunately for a lot of families across many lands, this did not end in such an upbeat way. 5/5 stars Thank you NG and William Morrow and Custom House for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Grace J Reviewerlady

    One novel you really don’t want to miss! Eleanor and Edward Hamilton have a good life; war hero Edward is a proponent of the eugenics movement to rid society of the undesirable conditions which afflict so many. They are seeing their social status rise and the future is bright until their young daughter, Mabel, shown signs of epilepsy. Ever mindful of his studies and standing, Edward convinces his wife to agree to lock their daughter up, hiding her away from the ever watchful eyes of society; but One novel you really don’t want to miss! Eleanor and Edward Hamilton have a good life; war hero Edward is a proponent of the eugenics movement to rid society of the undesirable conditions which afflict so many. They are seeing their social status rise and the future is bright until their young daughter, Mabel, shown signs of epilepsy. Ever mindful of his studies and standing, Edward convinces his wife to agree to lock their daughter up, hiding her away from the ever watchful eyes of society; but there are secrets in the past which could do untold harm if they were ever to surface. Can they protect their family – or will the truth come out? Before I refer to this book, I have to mention this author’s debut novel ‘People Like Us’ which was such an amazing read that it made me eager to read her follow up novel. This book is everything I expected – and so very much more. A fictional read, based on fact, this story has consumed me! Even when not actively reading, it has been on my mind and stays there even after completion. It is an incredibly breathtaking read which completely blew me away! Beautifully written, it at no time betrays the extensive research it must have taken and the immense skill involved in producing such a terrific read while incorporating the facts. I not only urge everyone to read this but to also absorb the author’s acknowledgements at the end – they are extremely interesting and informative. Louise Fein received many accolades following her first novel but I suspect these will be nowhere near the furore this one will create. She is not only an author to watch, she is one not to be missed. I’m not entirely sure I even know enough superlatives to do this novel credit; suffice to say it is one of the most prodigiously stunning books it has ever been my good fortune to review. Five stars seem so insufficient, but they are all I have; however they are shining and sparkling so brightly they will dazzle you!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ritu Bhathal

    This is my first book by Louise Fein, and I have to say I was glad I gave it a try. The Hidden Child is a story steeped in history, filled with beliefs that many of us would find hard to swallow nowadays, but which were held to by many a century ago. The story centres around Husband and wife, Edward and Eleanor. Both have a strong belief in Eugenics, and the plan to institutionalise those who suffer from certain afflictions and maybe even sterilise them, to prevent the risk of 'inherited' disorders This is my first book by Louise Fein, and I have to say I was glad I gave it a try. The Hidden Child is a story steeped in history, filled with beliefs that many of us would find hard to swallow nowadays, but which were held to by many a century ago. The story centres around Husband and wife, Edward and Eleanor. Both have a strong belief in Eugenics, and the plan to institutionalise those who suffer from certain afflictions and maybe even sterilise them, to prevent the risk of 'inherited' disorders, such as epilepsy, being passed down to the next generations. Until something happens in their own personal life that tears both them apart, and their own beliefs. I have to say I couldn't read this in one sitting because the subject matter was so deep; eugenics, the search for the perfect Aryan race, institutionalisation, alternative treatments, But behind those topics was a story about a real family, struggling with dealing with situations out of their hands, Reading the Author's note at the end was enlightening, as certain aspects of the story are based upon one of her own background truths, and it is also quite scary to read how much of what is included in The Hidden Child is based upon truths, politically, and medically. I have to say there were moments, as a mother, I had tears in my eyes,. There were times I wanted to cheer, as Eleanor grew a backbone, and also moments of upset when I read about some of the Eugenic beliefs. A really fascinating, and engaging book. It's not an easy read beach book, but something to take time, and mull over. Many thanks to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for an ARC in exchange for an honest opinion.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Powell

    Wow. Just wow. This is a story of heartbreaking depth and voluminous highs. I had never heard of Eugenics or anything that went along with it and I feel wiser having read this. That being said, the description of the lives and history of the people in the story was fascinating in its own right. Really well done. Eleanor is married to Edward, a war hero and they have a good life. They live comfortably with the help of their staff and enjoy their daughter Mabel until one day she starts having fits Wow. Just wow. This is a story of heartbreaking depth and voluminous highs. I had never heard of Eugenics or anything that went along with it and I feel wiser having read this. That being said, the description of the lives and history of the people in the story was fascinating in its own right. Really well done. Eleanor is married to Edward, a war hero and they have a good life. They live comfortably with the help of their staff and enjoy their daughter Mabel until one day she starts having fits and no one knows why. Dwarf is a man of science and data and education and believes in Eugenics and the “survival of the fittest.” Of course, Mabel’s illness doesn’t line up with those beliefs so he decides that what’s best for them all is to put Mabel in an institution so that she can get help without being gawked at or laughed at or being the subject of the town’s gossips. In doing so, he alienated his wife, who doesn’t want that for her child, but being in that time period, she has little to say in the matter. She loves her husband and respects his work but doesn’t necessarily agree with it, especially about trying to make a “perfect” society and hiding away those less than. In deciding to fight for her daughter’s well being, Eleanor stands up for those with hat society might consider to be inadequate and learns how to care for her daughter with the help of some open minded people and physicians. I found myself cheering and weeping at alternating points in the story and even though it is fiction it truly was educating. Thanks to William Morrow paperbacks and Netgalley for this Arc in exchange for my review.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    High 5 stars!! This is a well written heartfelt story of a mothers love for her child. I so enjoyed this story. It has a great buildup and storyline into a tense crescendo. Then levels out to a wonderful ending. The research of epilepsy was excellent. I came to care for Mable, little Jimmy, and the whole cast. I highly recommend. I received an ARC from William Morrow along with NetGalley for my honest review. High 5 stars.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Sansom

    Having read Louise Fein’s debut novel - People Like Us - in October last year, it’s fair to say I was beside myself when I learned (through a spot of author-stalking on #BookTwitter) that she’s about to publish her second. Already, the author has established an incredibly powerful literary signature, drawing upon defining moments in history, with central characters whose viewpoints are alien, unpalatable and deeply controversial. (For those who’ve not yet had the opportunity to read People Like Having read Louise Fein’s debut novel - People Like Us - in October last year, it’s fair to say I was beside myself when I learned (through a spot of author-stalking on #BookTwitter) that she’s about to publish her second. Already, the author has established an incredibly powerful literary signature, drawing upon defining moments in history, with central characters whose viewpoints are alien, unpalatable and deeply controversial. (For those who’ve not yet had the opportunity to read People Like Us, the story follows the Nazi-supporting Heinrich family, and the painful moral awakening of their teenage daughter, Hetty … it was a profoundly moving book, an absolute must-read.) So when I learned that this new novel - The Hidden Child - was centred around the abhorrent Eugenics movement, I felt a frisson of anticipation that the author was about to publish another emotionally complex, historical masterpiece. Eugenics is the practice or advocacy of improving the human species by selectively mating people with specific desirable hereditary traits. At its most ‘passive’, it aimed to reduce human suffering by breeding-out disease, disabilities and so-called undesirable characteristics from the human population. But at its most aggressive it stretched to incarceration, enforced sterilisation and even the consideration of euthanasia of ‘defective’ humans. With most eugenists being affluent, white men, you’ll not be surprised to learn that most of the ‘undesirable’ characteristics they targeted affected people who weren’t one of them! It’s founding principles originated in the UK and US … yes, that’s the shocking truth of it. But it gets worse, because if you think this ideology sounds familiar, you’d be right … the principals of eugenics were adopted with horrific consequences by the Nazi party. The Hidden Child is set during the late 1920’s, with the spectre of the first world war still haunting the hearts and minds of the nation, and the country on the brink of enormous socio-political upheaval. It’s an incredibly abundant era in which to set a novel, and the author exquisitely captivates the reader with a potent combination of beautifully crafted storytelling, and shocking factual truths. Prevailing opinions of class, wealth, education, race, and female emancipation are all brought to bear on the plot line, each playing a contextual role in framing the actions and opinions of its characters. Never one to shy away from weighty topics, the author weaves these themes into her story with considered precision, balancing the narrative through intellectual debates between her most influential characters. In creating Edward and Eleanor Hamilton, the author presents us with two inherently good and - on the whole - relatable characters, albeit with strong beliefs that are entirely unconscionable. Edward’s profound conviction in the Eugenics movement, his single-minded ambition, his secrecy, his hypocrisy, and deceitfulness should all make him an easy chap to dislike - hate even - but the author never quite allows that opinion to take root in her readers, gently reminding us of his private internal conflicts, his war trauma, and his misguided attempts to build a better life. Eleanor, meanwhile, is distinctly easier to warm to, although her lack of conviction in her own opinions is infuriating; a mindset illuminated perfectly by the dynamic between Eleanor and her forward-thinking younger sister, Rose. The heart-wrenching cruelties of the Eugenics doctrine are brought to bear on the book’s smallest, most adorable character; two-year old Mabel. She’s Edward and Eleanor’s first child, and the centre of their world … blond-haired, spirited, fun-loving perfection … every eugenicist’s image of ideal genes and excellent breeding. Mabel’s seizures arrive in the very first chapter of the book, bringing with them a sickening fear and insidious prejudice that escalates and distorts as the plot progresses. Epilepsy is a condition the eugenists are keen to eradicate; they believe it’s the foundation of crime, sexual promiscuity, and weak mindedness; that it’s something to be ashamed of; that it’s hereditary; and that it should be tackled with some truly awful treatments. This is when the story takes a deeply distressing turn - the passages describing Mabel’s treatments were incredibly difficult to read; her fear and sadness are overwhelmingly palpable. It’s impossible not to be affected by her fear and confusion, and although the book is narrated by Eleanor and Edward, I found myself viewing their unfathomable actions from little Mabel’s perspective, making it all the more heart-rending. I found Edward and Eleanor incited extremely strong, visceral reactions in me; on many occasions I was absolutely raging at them … at Edward for his bloody-minded, egotistical ignorance, and at Eleanor for allowing her maternal instinct to be smothered into passive acceptance by pseudo science and patriarchal oppression. But this is an enduring story of hope and love and compassion, so whilst there are times when the author takes the Hamiltons to some very dark places, you can be assured of a hard-won enlightenment and redemption for them. Now feels like a good time to comment on a stroke of unique authorly genius, which enhanced the story with remarkable elegance … epilepsy itself has a voice in the book, acting almost as an off-stage narrator. Nestled between the alternating portrayals of Eleanor and Edward, it forces the reader to entertain the idea that the seizures can be illuminating and not just debilitating, whilst creating a wholly unexpected view of what was happening to Mabel. It was an extremely manipulative, divisive voice that reflected my own disdain of society’s prejudices, whilst also serving as the driving force behind the escalating tension in the latter chapters. An absolutely inspired touch! I first became aware of the concept of eugenics and its high profile followers a few years ago when I read Anna Hope’s stunning novel, The Ballroom. Whilst it wasn’t a main theme in that particular book, it piqued my interest. In The Hidden Child the author deftly exposes the ugly truth of eugenics as a British-born school of thought, refusing to allow it to be swept under the moral carpet by a carefully silenced bypassing of historical events. Placing the Hamiltons in real and imagined scenes amongst notary figures of the era (Marie Stopes, Winston Churchill, Leonard Darwin, John Rockefeller Jr to name a few) adds to the integrity and voracity of the story whilst demonstrating the exemplary research and plotting that’s been poured into this superb novel. I’ve come to realise I’ll always close Louise Fein’s books feeling emotionally and intellectually stimulated and enlightened. The Hidden Child is a thought-provoking, enthralling and morally challenging novel which exquisitely focuses your attention on themes which resonate as strongly today as they ever have. The enormity of its scope, and the moral significance of its context, has been encapsulated with a beautiful fluidity, enveloping the reader in a work of historical fact-fiction that reflects the sentiments of the era so well. An unforgettable and breathtaking triumph of powerful storytelling.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    The Hidden Child by Louise Fein is an excellent, thought-provoking historical fiction novel that is truly engrossing and that kept me interested from beginning to end. I really enjoyed Ms. Fein's previous novel, Daughter of the Reich, so I was excited to be able to read this book as well. This is a darker, more serious read then a lot of the current WWII era fiction that is present at this time. It is however very important that the subject of eugenics and what was attempted in the past continue The Hidden Child by Louise Fein is an excellent, thought-provoking historical fiction novel that is truly engrossing and that kept me interested from beginning to end. I really enjoyed Ms. Fein's previous novel, Daughter of the Reich, so I was excited to be able to read this book as well. This is a darker, more serious read then a lot of the current WWII era fiction that is present at this time. It is however very important that the subject of eugenics and what was attempted in the past continue to be remembered for the morality of the human race in general for the future. I have read quite a bit on the subject of eugenics and "selection" in reference to the mindset, proclamations, rules, and atrocities that were pushed and broadcasted from the Nazi propaganda machine in the 1920s-1940s. The fact that the ideals became so widespread is just astounding looking back at it now. The author takes this aspect of history and creates a personal narrative incorporating this. The story of Mabel, Eleanor, and Edward Hamilton and their specific situation in England was hard to read, but yet fascinating at the same time. What Edward had "believed" in and had supported was really shattered when it then was at direct odds with the illness of his child and what was at one time impersonal and politics, then became really, really personal. The inner and outer struggles that occurred within Eleanor and Edward individually, between each other, and in respect to Edward's political and societal statements were fundamentally at odds. I enjoyed how at least in this case the uplifting and satisfying ending. Unfortunately for a lot of families across many lands, this did not end in such an upbeat way. 5/5 stars Thank you NG and Head of Zeus for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Before I picked up this book, I knew lamentably little about the eugenics movement – other than having an obvious awareness of the part it played in Nazi ideology and the extremes of its application in an attempt to secure the purity of the Aryan race. I had no idea that it had gained such traction in the UK in the period following the First World War, driven by the notion of “greater good”, the desire to prevent over-breeding by those perceived to be the lower levels of the population: and I ce Before I picked up this book, I knew lamentably little about the eugenics movement – other than having an obvious awareness of the part it played in Nazi ideology and the extremes of its application in an attempt to secure the purity of the Aryan race. I had no idea that it had gained such traction in the UK in the period following the First World War, driven by the notion of “greater good”, the desire to prevent over-breeding by those perceived to be the lower levels of the population: and I certainly had no idea that its principles had their foundation in America, its popularity driven by racial motivations as well as the suppressing of the unfit and the criminal classes. Firstly the notion of selective breeding – with a programme of compulsory sterilisation for the “undesirables” – then the proposal of euthanasia. It’s a frightening subject, and a particularly brave one to tackle in a work of fiction – but the depth of the author’s research is particularly impressive, making it a convincing and fascinating backdrop for the more personal fictional story at the book’s heart. Edward is a leading light in the eugenics movement – a war hero, his interest driven by the psychological and education perspective, but also by the new-found respect he has in the community. His wife Eleanor also has her reasons to be sympathetic to the cause – her mother was murdered by a man with mental health issues, forcing her to work to support herself and her young sister, but marriage to Edward has given her a life of comfort and affluence. Her young daughter Mabel is the centre of her life, four years old, lively and vibrant – until she develops frequent seizures, and is diagnosed with epilepsy. Eleanor is horrified by the brutal effects of her medication – Edward is perhaps more concerned about the impact on his personal standing when the news gets out that his daughter is suffering from one of the conditions the eugenics movement are endeavouring to suppress. As Mabel’s health deteriorates, and the bromide treatment fails to stop her mental deterioration, she is sent away to an epilepsy colony – Eleanor is convinced it’s a facility where she will be treated and cared for but the reality is something very different, while Edward is relieved that it’ll lessen the possibility of Mabel’s condition and its implications being discovered. The story is told from the viewpoints of both Edward and Eleanor. Hers is filled with domestic detail, her relationship with her rather more unconventional sister, the emotional impact of her daughter’s illness and all that follows, her feelings for her husband and her doubts about the foundations of her marriage. Edward’s track his dealings with the eugenics movement, his meetings and conferences, his conversations exploring the theory, the putting together of his research papers, all underpinned by his unshakeable belief that the ideology is the only possible solution – but also dip into his personal history and upbringing and the deep secrets of his past that disturb his nights. There’s a third voice too – the voice of Epilepsy, for occasional chapters, and it’s a device that’s exceptionally effective and well-handled. Despite their ideology, the author manages to make both Edward and Eleanor sympathetic characters, shaped by their time and their experiences – and the wider cast of characters is equally strongly drawn. Their story, of course, is a work of fiction – and it’s a strong and well-told story, one that draws you in and consumes you, with immense emotional impact. The way the author weaves in the factual detail is really exceptional – both the progress of the eugenics movement and the realities of epilepsy and its treatment at the time – and she creates a world and a time you entirely inhabit and believe in for as long as you read. I always enjoy a book when I learn a little – and this book also makes you question your own attitudes and preconceptions, pulling you into their dilemma, making you ask yourself what you would do in a similar situation. The writing is quite wonderful – emotionally astute, intellectually convincing, and all done with perfect pace and more than enough twists and turns to keep the pages turning. And do read the author’s afterword – it has fascinating detail about the historical context, and also explains how she was able to write so convincingly about epilepsy and its treatment. It’s fair, I think, to say that this wasn’t an easy read – but that’s only because of its subject matter, and although it’s a fairly weighty book it’s an entirely compulsive read with stunning emotional and historical depth. Without question, this is one of my books of the year – I’ll be thinking about it for some time to come, and recommend it most highly.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Li

    4.5 This is an incredibly moving novel which grapples with the complex subject and ethics of the eugenics movement (which I knew little about other than in the narrow context of the Nazis during WWII) and through Eleanor and Edward, having to confront the morality of limiting rights of the ‘unfit’ in society and society dictating who is deserving of status, recognition and freedom. While this is a fictional work, it is clear the thorough research that Fein has carried out to accurately present t 4.5 This is an incredibly moving novel which grapples with the complex subject and ethics of the eugenics movement (which I knew little about other than in the narrow context of the Nazis during WWII) and through Eleanor and Edward, having to confront the morality of limiting rights of the ‘unfit’ in society and society dictating who is deserving of status, recognition and freedom. While this is a fictional work, it is clear the thorough research that Fein has carried out to accurately present the historical facts of this rising movement (which in today’s world would be considered shocking) as well as demonstrating a lot of compassion in writing this novel based on Fein’s own personal experiences with her daughter. I particularly found it captivating how Fein personifies epilepsy in short chapters, giving this condition a voice and raising awareness of this mysterious condition that doesn’t seem to be clearly connected to inherited genes or intellect. The discussion of eugenics are uncomfortable to read but I equally found it enlightening and fascinating how there was support for favouring more ‘elite’ races following WWI in UK and the US. I really empathised with this family’s situation and it was heart wrenching to read about Mabel undergoing horrible treatment to try and rid her of the seizures. The strength of motherhood is so powerfully portrayed by Eleanor and her will to protect Mabel. Must read for historical fiction readers!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

    Set in the 1920's, this book starts out with the perfect family, until Edward and Eleanor's daughter, Mabel becomes very sick. Once Mabel is diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy among children, this startling and unfortunate revelation has negative effects on their family. Edward, who is a professor having spent the majority of his lifetime working with eugenics, is dedicated to pushing for sterilization of 'imperfect' people in society and other meaningful ways and methods to 'remedy' epileps Set in the 1920's, this book starts out with the perfect family, until Edward and Eleanor's daughter, Mabel becomes very sick. Once Mabel is diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy among children, this startling and unfortunate revelation has negative effects on their family. Edward, who is a professor having spent the majority of his lifetime working with eugenics, is dedicated to pushing for sterilization of 'imperfect' people in society and other meaningful ways and methods to 'remedy' epilepsy. Even with his daughter's diagnosis, he continues to push forward with legislation in regards to what is best for society - leaving him at opposite ends with his wife. At times, I found this to be a very hard read, given the way he reacts to his daughter's prognosis and future and learning more of the underlying principles of eugenics when it comes to society. I liked the point of views from Edward and Eleanor throughout the novel, but found the point of view from epilepsy, I'm assuming, to be very odd. Having not read anything on this subject and eugenics, I did find the topic interesting and felt the book was well written. Thank you to NetGalley, Louise Fein, and William Morrow for providing me with an advanced digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kendra Choy

    Eleanor and Edward live a perfect little life. They have a beautiful daughter, Mabel, who is the light of Eleanor's life after losing her parents. Then one day, Mabel has an epileptic seizure and their world changes forever. Edward decides that Mabel should be institutionalized and sterilized to keep their bloodline "pure" so that future children won't be "tainted" like Mabel is. As Mabel's condition deteriorates Eleanor begins to regret her decision to go along with Edward's plans and begins to Eleanor and Edward live a perfect little life. They have a beautiful daughter, Mabel, who is the light of Eleanor's life after losing her parents. Then one day, Mabel has an epileptic seizure and their world changes forever. Edward decides that Mabel should be institutionalized and sterilized to keep their bloodline "pure" so that future children won't be "tainted" like Mabel is. As Mabel's condition deteriorates Eleanor begins to regret her decision to go along with Edward's plans and begins to take Mabel's future in her hands. Will she be able to go against her husbands wishes to save her child? This was a hauntingly beautiful story. I've read Ms. Fein's The Daughter of the Reich so was extremely excited to crack this one open and start on it. The story captivated me from the beginning. It was beautiful to read about the sacrifices of Eleanor to help her daughter, and at the same time horrifying to read about the eugenics and "selection" process that took place in WWII. As a Historical Fiction fan, sometimes I feel like all the stories are the same story with different character names after awhile, but this one was so different and so captivating! Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for the ARC in exchange for my review and honest opinions of the book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Scott

    I loved this book. I raced through it on the beach on holiday, caring deeply what happened to all of the characters - even Edward, Mabel's father, who's a eugenicist. I learned a huge amount about the eugenics movement from this book, which was not at all preachy, but clearly incredibly well researched. The overwhelming and intense love of Eleanor, Mabel's mother, was incredibly well written and very moving, particularly because it was inspired by the author's relationship with her own daughter, I loved this book. I raced through it on the beach on holiday, caring deeply what happened to all of the characters - even Edward, Mabel's father, who's a eugenicist. I learned a huge amount about the eugenics movement from this book, which was not at all preachy, but clearly incredibly well researched. The overwhelming and intense love of Eleanor, Mabel's mother, was incredibly well written and very moving, particularly because it was inspired by the author's relationship with her own daughter, who also had epilepsy. I also loved the fact the epilepsy was actually a character in the novel, and without giving anything away, Louise Fein's use of that was very clever indeed. This is an involving, emotional story with a strong message, an engaging plot and a huge dollop of heart. Thoroughly recommended.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Linda McCutcheon

    The Hidden Child by Louise Fein is historical fiction at its best in educating while entertaining its readers. It is 1920s in London and Eleanor and Edward have a "perfect" life. Money, a beautiful daughter and happy marriage. But the 1929 stock market crash is coming, their child develops epilepsy and Hitler is putting the movement of eugenics (weeding out imperfect people) into real life. Soon the facade of a perfect life is ripped apart and reality is harsh and only a mother's love maybe this The Hidden Child by Louise Fein is historical fiction at its best in educating while entertaining its readers. It is 1920s in London and Eleanor and Edward have a "perfect" life. Money, a beautiful daughter and happy marriage. But the 1929 stock market crash is coming, their child develops epilepsy and Hitler is putting the movement of eugenics (weeding out imperfect people) into real life. Soon the facade of a perfect life is ripped apart and reality is harsh and only a mother's love maybe this family's salvation. Not always an easy story but a fascinating well written one. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dana Halek Damato

    Sometimes books take us to places and times in our history as humans, that we'd rather not go. This story is one of those. It's 1928 England, between World wars, a time when the eugenics movement is being fueled by the wealthy and powerful. Eugenics is the theory of improving the human race by increasing reproduction of the most desirable characteristics and suppressing the least desirable. Unfortunately, the wealthy,upper class considered everyone else "lower orders and inferior races". If it s Sometimes books take us to places and times in our history as humans, that we'd rather not go. This story is one of those. It's 1928 England, between World wars, a time when the eugenics movement is being fueled by the wealthy and powerful. Eugenics is the theory of improving the human race by increasing reproduction of the most desirable characteristics and suppressing the least desirable. Unfortunately, the wealthy,upper class considered everyone else "lower orders and inferior races". If it sounds familiar, Hitler based his "perfect Aryan race" on this theory and put it into practice. If that isn't enough to get your attention, imagine a well off family with a seemingly ideal life, until their beloved four year old daughter starts having epileptic seizures. When theories and real life collide, what happens to this child is heartbreaking. This is a powerful, well written story of one family caught between the mores of the times and their love for their child.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lizzie

    I loved Fein's debut novel People like Us (Daughters of the Reich in the USA) and its highly regarded all over the world so I imagine Fein must be feeling some trepidation about how this- her tricky second novel- is going to be received in the wild. No trepidation necessary! Its another truly fabulous read: both absorbing and enlightening. In both books, young adults are sucked into cults which offer simple answers to complicated issues- in People like Us, its Nazism, in The Hidden Child it is t I loved Fein's debut novel People like Us (Daughters of the Reich in the USA) and its highly regarded all over the world so I imagine Fein must be feeling some trepidation about how this- her tricky second novel- is going to be received in the wild. No trepidation necessary! Its another truly fabulous read: both absorbing and enlightening. In both books, young adults are sucked into cults which offer simple answers to complicated issues- in People like Us, its Nazism, in The Hidden Child it is the eugenics movement. Fein convincingly explores why people are attracted to these ideologies - and then busts their worlds apart. In both stories, its love that makes old certainties wobble- in People like Us- romantic love for a man, Walter, in The Hidden child, maternal love for the daughter Mabel. The family's struggle to come to terms with Mabel's epilepsy is brilliantly done- unmistakably from the heart- and you really feel the tension between their public personas and their private lives and feel the horror of the treatment of Mabel. all the characters are well-drawn, all the dilemmas are sympathetic, pacing is spot-on. Eugenics might be a dark subject matter but The Hidden Child is also suffused with empathy and hope. I feel the story can be enjoyed as beautifully done women's or 'domestic' fiction but it can also be read as a philosophical book asking 'why'? (or why not?) since beneath the realistic relationship issues there is this undercurrent of social questioning. Is it obvious I loved it? :) Relevant, passionate and powerful, its a book to be savoured then talked about again and again.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lane McLoud

    This was a tough subject to read and learn about! I related to the female character as a mother wanting to protect her child/family. As the story and details unfolded, I found myself pulled in. It’s a great lesson in “history” and eugenics. The characters are relatable, and having the story unfold by “his and her” telling their side is interesting. I’m passing this book on to my daughter who lives historical fiction, especially this time period.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    Thought-provoking and moving - full review to follow for blog tour

  27. 5 out of 5

    Fiona Mitchell

    Set in the wake of the First World War, this well-researched story examines the eugenics movement through the eyes of one of its leading advocates, war hero Edward Hamilton and his wife Eleanor. When the couple’s daughter Mabel develops severe epilepsy, the pair are forced to re-examine their beliefs. It was hard to empathise with Edward because of his repugnant stance, so I ended up racing through his chapters in order to read of Eleanor who was much more relatable. That being said, as the lies Set in the wake of the First World War, this well-researched story examines the eugenics movement through the eyes of one of its leading advocates, war hero Edward Hamilton and his wife Eleanor. When the couple’s daughter Mabel develops severe epilepsy, the pair are forced to re-examine their beliefs. It was hard to empathise with Edward because of his repugnant stance, so I ended up racing through his chapters in order to read of Eleanor who was much more relatable. That being said, as the lies that Edward had constructed around his life gradually eroded, so my empathy towards him grew. This is a heart-breaking story with enough mystery to keep the reader gripped, and the subplot was engaging too. For me, this is a book to be read in lengthy sittings rather than one which you can simply read a few pages of at a time. A most enjoyable novel and a worthy follow-up to Fein’s fantastic debut.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    It's easy to think that ideas about genetic purity are confined to the past along with people like Adolf Hitler and his Nazi acolytes, and that we now come across such visions only in the pages of history texts and Dystopian fiction. However, Louise Fein's excellent second novel The Hidden Child, makes us think again by examining in shocking clarity how the ideas on which Hitler based his philosophy came from thinking that was widespread in the early 20th century through the eugenics movement, e It's easy to think that ideas about genetic purity are confined to the past along with people like Adolf Hitler and his Nazi acolytes, and that we now come across such visions only in the pages of history texts and Dystopian fiction. However, Louise Fein's excellent second novel The Hidden Child, makes us think again by examining in shocking clarity how the ideas on which Hitler based his philosophy came from thinking that was widespread in the early 20th century through the eugenics movement, even throughout the USA and the UK . Fein introduces us to the subject via the fictional Hamilton family. Living in London in 1929, the Hamiltons seem to have the perfect life. Eleanor Hamilton is the epitome of feminine perfection of her era - the dutiful mother to young Mabel with another child on the way, caring sister to Rose, and loving wife of WWI hero Captain Edward Hamilton - and all seems rosy in their leafy corner of Surrey. Edward is making a name for himself in the right circles as an exponent of the eugenics movement and their future is bright. However, when Mabel develops epilepsy the Hamiltons are forced to confront their eugenic principles. Epilepsy makes Mabel one of the 'undesirables' Edward is so very keen to remove from society, not to mention the fact that this brings into the question the purity of his own and his wife's genetic credentials. As Mabel's condition becomes too advanced to hide from prying eyes, and with Edward's reputation at stake, she is secretly consigned to a barbaric treatment regime in an institution from which it is unlikely she will ever return. Eleanor is destroyed by the fate of her daughter and comes to question the beliefs that Edward still holds so dear now the consequences of such thinking have touched their own family. How can she abandon her daughter and bring up another child as though Mabel no longer exists? Perhaps the ambitious ideas that Edward and his colleagues are so determined must become the foundation of government policy are not the solution they claim to be? As Eleanor discovers that Edward is harbouring secrets that call into question not just his theories, but the very nature of the man she thought she knew so well, can she remain the dutiful wife everyone believes her to be? There must be another way... There is so much I want to praise about this book! It is a compelling and emotional tale that pulls you in with its intimate portrayal of a family shattered by a twist of fate, that draws heavily on Fein's own experience as the mother of a child with epilepsy. It kept me engrossed from the first page to the last, shining a light on some very uncomfortable historical facts, while entertaining and educating about the customs, attitudes, anxieties and struggles of the wider time and place in the way that only a talented author can. In setting this tale against the backdrop of the huge social changes that played out between the wars Fein skilfully touches on practically every aspect of what marks this era as so fascinating, alongside her examination of eugenics. Fein pulls no punches in laying out the ideals of the popular eugenic movement of 1929, and I defy you not to be both disturbed by the views espoused, and horrified by the familiar names of some of the people that supported its ideology, and yet, by and large these were ordinary people who genuinely believed their intentions were for the good of society which makes it all the more chilling. As someone with a background in psychology, I was aware of some of these details, but even I was shocked to learn how widespread these views were, and of the sheer scale of the atrocities visited upon the poor souls dubiously deemed unfit. It's particularly distressing to think of the end results of these views, and there are many moments when hindsight gives you a shiver up the spine at the hints of things to come at the hands of eugenics supporters like Josef Mengele. But there is so much more, dear reader... In keeping with the theme of the story, Fein tells us a lot about the views of epilepsy and the barbaric forms of treatment meted out to sufferers, including small children - and the suspicion of new treatments by the establishment. Much of this is distressing and difficult to read, as it should be to our modern sensibilities, but in choosing epilepsy as her subject Fein also makes us think about the perception of disability both then and now. The notion that a person with epilepsy could be labelled as worthless to society from childhood is particularly upsetting I think, as I have had the pleasure to know more than a few wonderful children with this condition during my time as a school librarian - and I am pretty sure I am not alone in this. Does anyone really have the right to decide the worth of another's existence? I did enjoy the way Fein includes epilepsy itself as a character in the novel, with asides that break in at pivotal times in Mabel's story, personifying it in a way that contrasts its harsh nature with the cruelty of humankind. It's quite a brilliant story device, and actually builds rather a lot of tension into the story with some lovely misdirection. Through the beautifully drawn characters we come to understand the wider events that have shaped them into who they are, and the paths they are destined to follow. There are lovely touches of glamour from descriptions of location, decor and clothing; of the dying days of the country house party set with fast cars and a desperate need for fun to chase away the shadow of the Great War; and of sojourns to exotic locations in Europe; but alongside this beguiling side of the era we get a glimpse at how poverty overshadows many lives, and some interesting observations on the aspiring middle classes. There are myriad threads about women's emancipation and their reluctance to return to the domestic sphere after enjoying the freedoms granted to them through their wartime efforts, including sexual freedom and the greater availability of birth control - particularly through Rose's story and Eleanor's dawning frustration with her lack of intellectual freedom. In addition, Fein goes to great efforts to ensure we understand what is happening in the political sphere that is provoking a call for better rights for working men and women and a change in the social order, leading to unrest among all the classes. I was also struck by the moving way she delves into the lives of those who returned from the trenches as changed men, often profoundly physically damaged and mentally scarred. The way this is used to great effect in motivating Edwards's actions in particular is rather clever, and this lends him a realistic complexity, making him a much more sympathetic character with scope for redemption than he might otherwise appear given some of the things he does in these pages. I could go on and on... but I very much want you to go and read it to discover its delights for yourselves. This really is an astonishingly good novel on every single front that tugs mercilessly on the heart strings, and thrums with the love of family and the bonds of motherhood, but if that was not enough, it also does what the very best kind of historical fiction should do by highlighting exactly how history can teach us lessons about our own time. Many of the ideas rooted in the eugenic philosophy still receive support today, despite our beliefs that we live in more enlightened times, and we need to be wary that so called solutions are not taken to extremes in many areas of life in the name of progress. Danger lies in the fear and suspicion of those we see as different, and the all too persistent need for humankind to blame its misfortunes on others. If this tells us anything, it is that a desire to improve the lot of others through kindness, acceptance, and compassion should be the real focus of our lives, and making decisions on pseudo-science and false conclusions should be avoided at all costs. An important lesson indeed. There is so much to reflect on here, all tied up in an incredible novel that made me sob with both sadness and joy. Louise Fein's writing is truly wonderful, and I am aching for more - her debut People Like Us has just moved to the top of my reading pile so keep your eyes peeled for my thoughts on it soon!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dive Into A Good Book

    The beauty of every single person in this world is their uniqueness. Why a group of people believe everyone should look the same and act the same is beyond me. Who is to say these people’s lives are worth nothing just because they are poverty stricken, are of a different race, have a chronic illness, or are not of high intelligence? The word eugenics strikes fear in my soul, makes my stomach roll, and I can feel tears swell. Louise Fein takes an incredibly challenging topic and turns it into a b The beauty of every single person in this world is their uniqueness. Why a group of people believe everyone should look the same and act the same is beyond me. Who is to say these people’s lives are worth nothing just because they are poverty stricken, are of a different race, have a chronic illness, or are not of high intelligence? The word eugenics strikes fear in my soul, makes my stomach roll, and I can feel tears swell. Louise Fein takes an incredibly challenging topic and turns it into a beautifully written story. Edward and Elanor Hamilton appear to have the perfect life, the perfect marriage, the perfect family. Edward is a professor working diligently to prove that eugenics is the way for England’s future. Eugenics can solve all of England’s problems in one swipe. To be rid of the unfit and the feebleminded. What could possibly go wrong with forced sterilization, the locking up of children who are afflicted, to be rid of the lesser classes, essentially to breed out anyone who is different. Tragedy strikes this perfect family, when their daughter Mabel begins having seizures. She is quickly diagnosed with epilepsy. One of the diseases that the eugenics program is pushing to have people such as Mabel locked up and to be forgotten. Edward is worried about how this will affect his career and what people will think of them. He wishes to have Mabel whisked away and hidden, to protect the rest of their family. Eleanor is shocked and appalled by the way Edward reacts. She becomes a force to be reckoned with. She is a strong, intelligent, and most importantly has a mind of her own. The characters that Louise Fein has created are deeply layered. Their secrets being peeled back layer, by layer. Adding depth and a need to completely devour this book. The Hidden Child will destroy you pulling at every one of your heart strings. Even though the topic is horrific and will leave a bad taste in your mouth, this book is also about hope and love. The love one mother has for her daughter. The hope that people will stand up for others, no matter their differences. Because in the end we are all just people, no matter what makes us unique. Thank you to Louise Fein, William Morrow, and NetGalley for allowing me to read this truly thought provoking, well researched gem.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gill Thompson

    I am a huge fan of Louise Fein’s writing. In ‘The Hidden Child,’ just as in her wonderful debut, ‘People Like us', Louise skilfully reels us into the world of the novel, with meticulously researched period detail, and flawed but highly sympathetic characters. Within a few pages I was rooting for poor sweet Mabel, a young child experiencing strange fits in a world that had little grasp of her condition. Her loving mother Eleanor is beautifully drawn. Initially she conforms to the gender roles of I am a huge fan of Louise Fein’s writing. In ‘The Hidden Child,’ just as in her wonderful debut, ‘People Like us', Louise skilfully reels us into the world of the novel, with meticulously researched period detail, and flawed but highly sympathetic characters. Within a few pages I was rooting for poor sweet Mabel, a young child experiencing strange fits in a world that had little grasp of her condition. Her loving mother Eleanor is beautifully drawn. Initially she conforms to the gender roles of the era and submits to her husband’s authority, but over time develops the courage and tenacity to challenge the men who oppose her desire to protect her child. Mabel’s father, Edward, is damaged and stubborn but, thanks to Louise’s nuanced characterisation, we grow to understand the reasons for his behaviour. The book does not preach or overload us with science, yet we emerge from it with a clear sense of the havoc epilepsy can cause, and are engaged with the condition because we come to care hugely for those affected by it. I loved the way epilepsy itself was personified in some sections of the novel, reminding us of the terrifying monster it can be. Intertwining with this central theme are fascinating threads about female liberation and the growing fear of financial ruin. Behind it all is the still present spectre of world war one, and the impending doom of world war two. With the benefit of hindsight we find the references to the sinister Eugenics movement chilling in the extreme. Louise’s story is wonderfully spun through prose that is at times lyrical and poetic yet always clear and forward moving. I was completely under its spell in this powerful, engaging, and ultimately heart-warming story. Bravo, Louise you’ve done it again!

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