“A gripping, heart-wrenching story of love, loyalty and family secrets.”
This engrossing story is told via three timelines:
“It is God’s will that a woman suffers in childbirth, he says, and it is not my place to interfere with God’s will – though he will happily interfere with his forceps and scalpels so he is home in time for dinner.” – (from Tess James’ notebook where she is speaking of the local physician, Dr. Jenkins)
1946 – Midwife Tessa James is unjustly convicted of murder when she is blamed for a bungled delivery by the local doctor. Both mother and baby perished due to his ineptitude. Midwives back then were often defiled by physicians and even the church who thought they ‘helped‘ women get rid of unwanted pregnancies. Tessa lives at the Vicarage with her young grandson, Alfie while her daughter Bella is off working elsewhere as a domestic servant.
1969 – Bobby James is the great-grandson of midwife Tessa James. He is fifteen and lives with his father, Alfie, and young sister Nell on a farm adjoining the Hilton’s estate. When Alice Hilton, the six-year-old daughter of the powerful Hilton family goes missing, Bobby is the last to have seen her. He is imprisoned, though Alice’s body was never found. Meanwhile, his young sister Nell is sent off to a sanatorium because she caught tuberculosis from the cattle.
2017 -Willow James – the midwife’s great-great granddaughter, and the daughter of Bobby James, is a young architect working on her first big project. It has personal meaning for her as it involves the development of land that her family has lived on for generations. A tricky project because it means the demolition of two listed homes. Willow realizes that her boss has manipulated her into taking the fall for some unscrupulous practices. In order to salvage the project and save her budding career, Willow delves into the history of her family.
On the day that the Hilton family are to move out of their manor house to make way for its demolition, the young daughter of Leo Hilton goes missing. Almost fifty years ago Leo’s sister Alice went missing at almost the same age…. Could history be repeating itself?
Meanwhile, Leo’s mother Vanessa is muddled. She is confused as to whether it is Alice or her granddaughter Sienna who is missing. She has never really gotten over the trauma of losing her beloved daughter Alice all those many years ago.
What a great read! This is a story of social injustice, corruption, and ancient crimes. This is my first read by this author and I have to say her writing reminded me a bit of that of Kate Morton and/or Eve Chase.
This novel will tug at your heart and gives the reader an almost gothic vibe with the old priest’s hole, a hidden room beneath the stairs. The Sussex setting lends itself well to the historical aspect of the book.
It is the story of two families: the ‘haves‘, the Hiltons, and the ‘have-nots‘, the James. The families live on adjoining properties and the James’s have suffered at the hands of the powerful Hilton family for decades. Social inequality is the overriding theme in my opinion. It shows how the rich and powerful can manipulate those with less – to their detriment.
This is not a crime novel as such, but there are many crimes to be found within its pages. The callous Leo Hilton was a truly despicable character.
“The Midwife’s Secret” was a memorable novel that spoke of grave losses and family skeletons/secrets. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Recommended!
Publication date: October 28, 2021 Publisher: Headline Review
Emily Gunnis previously worked in TV drama and lives in Brighton with her young family. She is one of the four daughters of Sunday Times bestselling author Penny Vincenzi.
Her debut novel, The Girl in the Letter, was published in August 2018 and has sold nearly half a million copies worldwide and been translated into 17 languages. The Lost Child, her second novel was published in April of 2020. The Midwife’s Secret is her third novel.
Emily Gunnis lives in Sussex with her husband Steve and her two beautiful, very energetic girls, Grace and Eleanor.
Follow Emily Gunnis on Twitter @EmilyGunnis