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Lily: A Tale of Revenge by Rose Tremain - Review

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

This book was the October choice for my book club so I bought it on eBay for just a few quid and picked it up in early October. I wasn't sure what to expect from it as I haven't read anything else by the author. It reminded me very much of The Five by Hallie Rubenhold as it's set in the Victorian era and other people in my book club said that too. 

Lily starts the book aged about seventeen, and she tells the reader immediately that she is a murderer. This did make me look at every character she encountered like 'is this who she killed? is this?!' so I thought that was an interesting way of starting a book. We go backwards and forwards in time from Lily now to her early childhood.

She was a foundling child, found in a park abandoned by her mother and left in a sack with a bag of hair in it as a token. She was found by a policeman, Sam Trench, and taken to Thomas Coram's foundling hospital. She was then fostered to a family in Suffolk, with loving parents and three older brothers. She had an idyllic early childhood there, but what she didn't realise is that aged six she would be taken back to the hospital in London and abandoned by her foster parents.

When she's there, she immediately comes up against Nurse Maud, who is cruel towards her and other children. Lily makes friends with another little girl with whom she shares a bed and the two of them escape the hospital but run into trouble and are soon dragged back there. 

As a teenager, Lily is apprenticed to a wigmaker called Belle who praises her eye for detail and becomes something of a mother figure towards Lily. She reckons she has information on Lily's real mother and Lily tries to find her. Meanwhile Sam, the officer who found her, and his wife come back into Lily's life and they want to be kind towards her to. To a point. I was totally on board with them until Sam turned totally creepy.

I liked the book, it was compelling and kept me reading. I liked Lily and wanted her to succeed and when the murder did occur I was completely on her side and felt it was justified. Some of us in the book group questioned whether the ending (which I won't spoil) was realistic or not, but I felt like she deserved some happiness! It was an interesting one to discuss and I'm giving it four out of five. 

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