The Hidden Child

Morrow. Oct. 2021. 480p. ISBN 9780063119246. $27.99; pap. ISBN 9780063090934. $16.99. F
Fein (Daughter of the Reich) fashions an affecting historical novel by weaving together themes of eugenics, epilepsy, PTSD, and the crash of 1929. Eleanor and Edward Hamilton, living in upper-class comfort in Surrey, England, in 1928, are expecting their second child when their four-year-old daughter Mabel starts to have seizures, throwing their lives into turmoil. Edward is involved in research supporting the Eugenics Society, which advocates incarceration and compulsory sterilization of disabled people. His reputation will be damaged if Mabel’s condition becomes widely known. Edward resolves to keep Mabel’s illness secret, but how will he and Eleanor survive the resulting stress on their marriage and lifestyle, especially as Edward is still suffering PTSD from World War I and has secrets of his own to conceal.
VERDICT A good choice for readers who enjoy 20th-century historical fiction, Fein’s novel is well researched if a bit heavy-handed, with factual passages on eugenics and epilepsy. The classism and racism fundamental to eugenics come through clearly, as do the heartbreaking consequences of a child’s serious illness.
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