From the outside, Eleanor and Edward Hamilton have the perfect life, but they’re harbouring a secret that threatens to fracture their entire world.
Eleanor Hamilton is a dutiful mother, a caring sister and an adoring wife to a celebrated war hero. Her husband, Edward, is a pioneer in the eugenics movement. The Hamiltons are on the social rise, and it looks as though their future is bright.
When Mabel, their young daughter, begins to develop debilitating seizures, they have to face an uncomfortable truth: Mabel has epilepsy – one of the ‘undesirable’ conditions that Edward campaigns against.
Forced to hide their daughter away so as to not jeopardise Edward’s life’s work, the couple must confront the truth of their past – and the secrets that have been buried.
Will Eleanor and Edward be able to fight for their family? Or will the truth destroy them?
Delighted to take my place on the tour with an exclusive insight into writing this novel, from Louise Fein herself
The story of The Hidden Child is told, in the main, in alternating chapters from the points of view of Eleanor and Edward Hamilton, a young, wealthy English couple on the social rise. Eleanor is, by birth, from a higher social class than her husband, but he has wealth and aspires to greater things. Eleanor is to a large extent, the product of her era and class. Traditionally, she would not have expected to work, but to marry well, look after the household, be an excellent hostess and entertain important guests. Of course, she would also be expected to produce children, but not to be involved greatly in looking after them, since that task would have been delegated to nannies and, educationally, to governesses and exclusive boarding schools.
But in Eleanor’s case, like many other women of the time, the first world war changed everything. She lost her father and brothers, and her own mother was forced to go out to work to make ends meet. When tragedy strikes her mother, Eleanor is essentially alone in the world and responsible for her younger sister, Rose. But Eleanor is bright and well educated and has the ability to gain good employment which became possible for women in the 1920’s in a way it had never previously been. But when she meets and marries Edward, she falls back into a traditional woman’s role, telling herself this is what she wants. Rose, on the other hand, is a feistier character who pushes boundaries and the role of women within it. It is only when the Hamilton’s young daughter, Mabel, becomes ill and Edward and Eleanor disagree over her treatment and what is to be done, cracks in their otherwise perfect marriage begin to appear.
Eleanor was a joy to write because as the book and the story progress she, who at the beginning of the novel is fairly passive and always defers to the wishes of her husband, finds the strength and fortitude to begin to think and act for herself and her daughter. This, and the action she later takes was open to her because of her class and her position in society. Had she been from a working-class background, the story would have been a very different one, liberation being easier for those who have a good education and economic freedom.
I think that Eleanor is unquestionably the heroine of The Hidden Child, and readers, I hope, will find her journey both relatable and enjoyable.
Writer On The Shelf
Louise Fein was born and brought up in London. She harboured a secret love of writing from a young age, preferring to live in her imagination than the real world. After a law degree, Louise worked in Hong Kong and Australia, travelling for a while through Asia and North America before settling back to a working life in London. She finally gave in to the urge to write, taking an MA in creative writing, and embarking on her first novel, Daughter of the Reich (named People Like Us in the UK and Commonwealth edition). The novel was inspired by the experience of her father’s family, who escaped from the Nazis and arrived in England as refugees in the 1930’s. Daughter of the Reich/People Like Us is being translated into 11 foreign languages, has been shortlisted for the 2021 RSL Christopher Bland Prize, the RNA Historical Novel of the year Award 2021 and long listed for the Not The Booker Prize 2020.
Louise’s second novel, The Hidden Child, will be published in the Autumn of 2021. Louise lives in the beautiful English countryside with her husband, three children, two cats, small dog and the local wildlife who like to make an occasional appearance in the house. Louise is currently working on her third novel.
For more information, go to https://www.louisefein.com and sign up to Louise’s newsletter.
‘Shocking, emotive, and compelling, but ultimately a story of hope. I loved it’ – Deborah Carr, bestselling author of The Poppy Field
‘A poignant rendering of love and motherhood, human frailty and redemption, exquisitely told against the backdrop of the unthinkable … Fein deftly takes the reader back to a terrifying turning point in history and, with grace and compassion, reminds us of the importance of standing up for what we believe in our souls to be true’ – Judithe Little, bestselling author of The Chanel Sisters
‘The Hidden Child is the thought-provoking and compelling tale of one family and the battle to survive their daughter’s illness. A reminder that ordinary people can so often be responsible for some of the most shocking episodes in history’ – Louise Hare, bestselling author of This Lovely City
‘An astonishing story about an aspect of British history that’s long been swept under the carpet – surprising, moving and poignant‘ – Frances Quinn, bestselling author of The Smallest Man
‘I was completely under its spell in this powerful, engaging, and ultimately heart-warming story. Bravo, Louise you’ve done it again!’ – Gill Thompson, author of The Oceans Between Us
‘The Hidden Child is a fascinating and thought-provoking story which is hard to put down’ – Caroline Bishop, author of The Other Daughter
‘The Hidden Child is a story of hope and redemption, of humanity and growth … both intimate and universal in scope. I loved this compelling read and its complex, flawed, but deeply human characters‘ – Addison Armstrong, author of The Light of Luna Park