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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, in the uppercrust London accent she had never shed - 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 a past that had never been spoken about, Justine buried it in the back of an old filing cabinet.

After her mother’s death, overcome with grief, Justine found herself drawn back to that envelope. Its contents revealed a mystery that would stretch back to the early years of World War II and lead her across the Atlantic Ocean to discover a truth she could scarcely imagine. Her mother did not grow up among London’s elite, but had been raised in the Hospital for the Maintenance and Education of Exposed and Deserted Young Children, commonly known as the Foundling Hospital. Established in the 18th century to raise "bastard" children to clean chamber pots for England’s ruling class, the Foundling Hospital was tied to some of the most influential historical 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, the Hospital’s impact on Western culture continues to reverberate. It was also the environment that shaped a young girl then 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 reigned death from the skies, unaware that her own mother was fighting to get her back.

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.

©2021 Justine Thompson Cowan (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

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