The Secret Life of Dorothy Soames

The Secret Life of Dorothy Soames

A riveting family drama evocative of Angela’s Ashes and The Glass Castle , about a woman who discovers the shocking secret at the center of her mother’s life.

Justine had always been told that her mother came from royal blood. The proof could be found in her mother’s elegance, her uppercrust London accent—and in a cryptic letter hinting at her claim to a country estate. But beneath the polished veneer lay a fearsome, unpredictable temper that drove Justine from home the moment she was old enough to escape. Years later, when her mother sent her an envelope filled with secrets from the past, Justine buried it in the back of an old filing cabinet.

Overcome with grief after her mother’s death, Justine found herself drawn back to that envelope. Its contents revealed 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 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 who dreamed of 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.

Title:The Secret Life of Dorothy Soames
ISBN:9780062991010
Format Type:

    The Secret Life of Dorothy Soames Reviews

  • Canadian Reader

    Rating: 3.5In this competently written work—a combination of biography, memoir, and social history— Justine Cowan reflects on the life of her difficult, emotionally disturbed mother, Eileen, the ...

  • Basic B's Guide

    The perfect blend of memoir and historical nonfiction, this book did not disappoint. One of my all time favorite books is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls so when I saw it compared I have to admit ...

  • Zoe

    I was lucky enough to be a beta reader of this book. I read it in a matter of hours, then recently read an updated version. The history of foundlings and in particular, the experiences of the author's...

  • Jeanette (Again)

    4.5 stars...

  • vicki honeyman

    I am grateful to Justine Cowan for writing this painful and difficult biography of her mother's life. It's hard to believe that human beings — children — can be so ill-treated, so unloved, so unca...

  • Alyson

    Definitely a fits the nonfiction that reads like fiction. Except if this was fiction, I would say the mother character was unbelievable. Would be a great choice for book clubs, because there is plenty...

  • Valerie S. Armstrong

    I have often shed a few tears over the years while reading literally thousands of stories but this true memoir had me sobbing as I read the last chapter. I found it incredibly moving to learn about th...

  • Honey Rand

    Very well done. The tension between mothers and daughters is pretty common, particularly in the teen years. Mothering is hard work. I've sat in enough memoir workshops to know that mom's take a beatin...

  • Onceinabluemoon

    Brutal, I had no idea what the life of a founding was like. Profound sadness on so many levels....

  • Rebecca

    I feel bad but I just can't. Sounded like a good story and I think there is a good story in there but I'm not feeling it. Maybe I'm wrong but I felt like there was a bunch of repetition with explanati...