• The Secret Life of Dorothy Soames

  • A Memoir
  • By: Justine Cowan
  • Narrated by: Lisa Flanagan
  • Length: 8 hrs and 12 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (113 ratings)

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The Secret Life of Dorothy Soames  By  cover art

The Secret Life of Dorothy Soames

By: Justine Cowan
Narrated by: Lisa Flanagan
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Publisher's summary

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 upper-crust 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 18th 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.

Supplemental enhancement PDF accompanies the audiobook.  

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2021 Justine Thompson Cowan (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about The Secret Life of Dorothy Soames

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Enlightening

This was a beautiful story of a woman’s journey to understand her mother’s history, personality and difficult childhood. The metamorphosis of this understanding displayed the writers ability to dig deep into her mothers story and portray her with dignity. A true labor of love that was very enjoyable to listen to.

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Loved it! Book club material 100%

The writing was compelling and engaging and the narrator is one of my favorites on Audible. I knew nothing of the foundlings prior to listening and learned so much from this book. It is a journey to empathy and healing that will help you think differently about many of the difficult people in your life and how they got that way. I highly recommend this book, especially if you have a challenging relationship with a parent. There is much to learn from the author’s journey.

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Captivating Tale

A wonderful tale of survival and overcoming incredible adversity. Told with great sensitivity and humanity.

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outstanding

a well-written story of a daughter mother relationship I enjoyed the way the author did a lot of research to understand her mother's childhood in an foundling home

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meaningful

Meaningful story about a mother. Could not stop until the book was complete. highly recommend

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Slow Family History

I struggled with this because it was read in the first person. There is no character build. It is strictly memoirs with a few inputs from others along the way. Not what I was hoping for.

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Five Stars!

An exquisitely written memoir that utilizes historical, sociological and psychological perspectives while encompassing the theme of the mother/daughter dynamic. A must read!

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Ugh

The author is like nails on chalkboard composing about her mother … blah blah blah. It is so distasteful to write about someone who cannot defend themselves. I’m sure her Mother would have a different version. Some kids are hard to love and this proves exactly why. Yuck . Whine and complain oh poor me I could hardly finish it.

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Great read!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found well written and informative. I highly recommend and I will share with friends

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Tears in my eyes

After losing my mother this year I found this book especially touching. Learning how children are harmed when separated from parents is terrible.

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