Friday, June 24, 2022

Book Review - The Foundling; Ann Leary

 

The Foundling; Ann Leary
Simon & Schuster Audio - 2022
Scribner/Marysue Ricci Books - 2022

Mary Engle was raised in a Catholic orphanage when her mother died shortly after her birth. Her best friend there was Lillian Henning.  

Fast forward to 1927, Mary is now eighteen and has been hired  as a secretary by Ann Vogel, a psychiatrist she met at a lecture. The brilliant Dr, Agnes Vogel runs the Nettleton State Village for Feebleminded Women of Childbearing Age.  She believes that weak, feeble minded women are preyed upon by unscrupulous men and should be confined in an institution where they can do farm labor to earn their room and board.  Unfortunately, many of the women at this institution were not feebleminded, instead they were dumped there by spouses and parents if they were deemed difficult or in some cases unmarried and expecting a child.  The institution is located in a remote area and conditions at the institution were horrific to say the least.

One of the women at Nettleton is Mary's former friend Lilian Henning. She has been confined there for having the child of a black man who she was not married to.  Lillian begs Mary to help free her.

Mary was a frustrating character at times who failed to see what was going on before her very eyes. Quite naive to say the least, I gave her a pass at times because of what she went though as a child. The novel is a fictionalized account of Laurelton State Village for Feebleminded Women of Childbearing Age which was located in central PA. 

The story was frightening at times forcing you to think about what went on back in the day when women were deemed unfit to have children.  We learn about eugenics -- selective breeding and removing undesirables from the race, forced sterilizations and the prohibition of mixed races from marrying as well as individuals with mental and physical disabilities. 

I thought the author did a good job getting her story across.  This is my third book in the last few years that has focused on the treatment of women in the 1920s. It was disheartening to see women considered as mere chattel back in the day regardless if they were rich or poor. I originally started the audiobook, read by Laura Benanti, but,  I then switched to the eBook which I preferred.

Rating - 4/5 stars

NOTE:  I received an audio and eBook download from the publisher at no cost in exchange for my unbiased review.

15 comments:

  1. This is a troubling story to say the least. But we mustn't close our eyes to what has happened in the past, lest we have to repeat it in the future.

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    1. Yes, so true Dorothy, we are seeing it unfold before our very eyes right now.

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  2. Sounds like a hard but interesting read, I may add it to my list.

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    1. It is a very good story but, tough to read at times as well.

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  3. 'Feeble minded women'. Goodness me, beggars belief doesn't it? Why does just being female always have to be such a battle, even now!

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  4. I've read a couple of Ann Leary novels. Loved The Good House on audio and enjoyed The Children in print. Will take you advice and read The Foundling in print.

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    1. Yes, something about the audio seemed to irk me at times.

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  5. I am hearing of more and more true and fiction tales of women who are locked up and put away on claims of their insanity/frailty when really it was their husbands who put them there for other reasons. It's so infuriating!

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    1. Yes, they were an "inconvenience" for their spouses, perhaps because they were not meek and had opinions of their own.

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  6. It is sad how women were treated back then! I often get frustrated and angry when reading books like this, but it's good to remember how it was so we never go back, you know?

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    1. Yes, what you say is true however, recent events by SCOTUS has saddened me as a major step back and a loss of women's rights. Happy to be living in a liberal state.

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  7. It's always sad to read about women being treated badly at that time, and even at present, too! This sounds like an interesting read despite the topic and the atmosphere. Will have to check this out.

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  8. Melody, yes, the recent SCOTUS ruling makes me sad - how far we have come only to be taken back to darker times for women.

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  9. Great review Diane, but this one will definitely not be for me. Such an upsetting topic indeed!

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