In 1934, Anne Foster, the wife of a British Army Officer, privately harbouring pain and remorse, sets sail from Bombay on a fateful journey home, a letter from a charismatic stranger — orphanage superintendent, Reverend Ezra Burroughs — in her pocket.
Seventy-six years later, Connie Burroughs, Ezra’s daughter, now in her nineties and in a care home, still lives in fear of her dead father. She guards his secrets loyally, but with a lifetime of regrets.
Sarah Jennings, escaping an unhappy marriage, moves to be near her ageing father. She buys Cedar Lodge, the crumbling former home of the Burroughs family, a renovation project she hopes will bring peace of mind to trying times. But she’s not prepared for the shocking secrets she uncovers. Determined to track down the past, Sarah embarks on a quest to expose the chilling events that took place at Ezra Burroughs’ orphanage in the 1930s; a quest that will ultimately change her life.
What I Thought:
Having read Ann Bennett’s excellent trilogy of novels based in South-East Asia, I was delighted to pick up The Foundling’s Daughter.
Although we’ve moved from Thailand and Malaysia to India, the evocative descriptions of rainforest, busy Indian cities and deserted jungle palaces are just as well-written, providing a clear sense of place and time.
The historical part of the story takes place at the height of the British Raj, but rather than glorifying the British in India (which goes on far too much these days for my liking), it shows something of the seemier side of that society, and the realities of young women embroiled in scandal moving to the other side of the world to snag themselves a husband and respectability.
To be fair to Anne, although that is what ends up happening to her, it is clearly not her initial intention, which we learn through diary entries cut between the more modern parts of the book.
I liked Sarah, the main, modern character and it was fun to follow her through her discoveries as she delved more into the Burroughs orphanage and its connections to her own life. Her collaboration with Connie Burroughs, whose fear of her father’s influence had kept her silent for so many years was an interesting dynamic, as Connie fought her own distrust, to eventually open up after a shocking discovery.
As I said, I’ve enjoyed Ann’s previous novels, and this is a thrilling and mysterious addition to her collection.
Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review, but all opinions are, as ever, my own.