The Secret Life of Dorothy Soames by Justine Cowan Summary
“Far from growing up in the wealthy, fox-hunting circles she had always suggested, her mother had in fact been raised in a foundling hospital for the children of unwed women.” — Editor’s Choice, The New York Times Book Review “Extraordinary … fascinating, moving.” —The Telegraph “This emotional and transatlantic journey is a page-turner.” — Editor’s Pick, Amazon Book Review “Book groups will find as much to discuss here as they have with The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, and Educated by Tara Westover.” — BookList Recommended by The New York Times, The Saturday Evening Post, Amazon Book Review, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus and more, Justine Cowan’s remarkable true story of how she uncovered her mother’s upbringing as a foundling at London’s Hospital for the Maintenance and Education of Exposed and Deserted Young Children has received acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. In the U.K., it has been featured in The Mail on Sunday, The Daily Mail, The Daily Mirror and The Spectator. The Telegraph calls it “extraordinary and Glamour magazine chose it as the best new book based on real life. The story begins when Justine found her often volatile mother in an unlit room writing a name over and over again, one that she had never heard before and would not hear again for many years – Dorothy Soames. Thirty years later, overcome with grief following her mother’s death, Justine found herself drawn back to the past, uncovering a mystery that stretched back to the early years of World War II and beyond, into the dark corridors of the Hospital for the Maintenance and Education of Exposed and Deserted Young Children. Established in the eighteenth century to raise “bastard” children to clean chamber pots for England’s ruling class, the institution was tied to some of history’s most influential figures and events. From its role in the development of solitary confinement and human medical experimentation to the creation of the British Museum and the Royal Academy of Arts, its impact on Western culture continues to reverberate. It is the reason we read Dickens’ Oliver Twist and enjoy Handel’s Messiah each Christmas. It was also the environment that shaped a young girl known as Dorothy Soames, who bravely withstood years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of a sadistic headmistress—a resilient child whose only hope would be a daring escape as German bombers rained death from the skies. Heartbreaking, surprising, and unforgettable, The Secret Life of Dorothy Soames is the true story of one woman’s quest to understand the secrets that had poisoned her mother’s mind, and her startling discovery that her family’s fate had been sealed centuries before.