Tackling Difficult Subjects Through Fiction: A Guest Post by Louise Fein, Author of The Hidden Child

I cannot express how much Louise Fein’s The Hidden Child is calling to me from my TBR and I’m thrilled to have been invited to participate in the blog tour. My huge thanks to Graeme Williams for that invitation. It’s a real privilege to host a guest post from Louise today.

Just released in paperback by Head of Zeus on 12th May 2022, The Hidden Child is available for purchase in all good bookshops, online and directly through the publisher here.

The Hidden Child

From the outside, Eleanor and Edward Hamilton have the perfect life, but they’re harbouring a secret that threatens to fracture their entire world.

London, 1929.

Eleanor Hamilton is a dutiful mother, a caring sister and an adoring wife to a celebrated war hero. Her husband, Edward, is a pioneer in the eugenics movement. The Hamiltons are on the social rise, and it looks as though their future is bright.

When Mabel, their young daughter, begins to develop debilitating seizures, they have to face an uncomfortable truth: Mabel has epilepsy – one of the ‘undesirable’ conditions that Edward campaigns against.

Forced to hide their daughter away so as to not jeopardise Edward’s life’s work, the couple must confront the truth of their past – and the secrets that have been buried.

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Tackling difficult subjects through fiction

A Guest Post by Louise Fein

I believe that all characters in novels must be a product of their time. So, as a writer of historical fiction, they should not have ideas or values which reflect those of today, and for that reason might be considered ‘difficult’. Of course, there must be balance, or there is a risk of completely alienating a modern readership with very unpalatable viewpoints. I feel I have a duty to be as authentic and true to the times I write in as possible, which does mean tackling difficult subjects. For me it is a matter of integrity – whitewashing, glorifying or romanticising the past means we can’t properly understand the present or learn from it for the future. It means we yearn for a false history which never existed. That said, I am writing fiction where the story is the most important element to what I’m writing, so liberties are of course taken, characters and situations invented. However, I hope that the overall sentiments, values and flavour of the novels I write, remain historically authentic.

The Hidden Child is set in the late 1920’s. I chose that period for a few reasons. It was a time of great social and economic change. Often the 1920’s are portrayed as the ‘roaring’ twenties – a time of freedom and excess after the war years. But for many ordinary people, the ‘20’s were a time of deprivation and hardship, and also great uncertainty. The rise of the working classes, liberation of women and the wide circulation of thoughts and ideas which questioned the very basis of capitalism and democracy, brought fear to the ruling and moneyed classes. All around the world was the rise of autocracy and the planned economy. Fear of the demise of democracy, freedom and a certain way of life drove rhetoric for extreme measures to be taken to protect them, albeit rhetoric based on false premises. Premises such as eugenics, a topic dealt with in The Hidden Child.

Within The Hidden Child are some ideas and views which today’s reader may find reprehensible. I don’t shy away from writing about these because however much we would like to think times have changed, human nature has not, and the legacy of these ideas linger on, not only in far-away countries, but right here at home. I think to have a healthy society, we need to understand where ideas come from, what drives people to think and behave as they do. I believe this is always at the heart of what I write. This can make for, at times, uncomfortable reading. I am, however, ultimately an optimist for the better part of human nature to shine through in the end, and this is also reflected in my fictional worlds. There is always hope, always good. In both The Hidden Child, and my debut novel, People Like Us, I chose to tell my stories from the points of view of those who hold views so contrary to my own. I always seek to understand why people might believe such things, and ultimately, what might drive them to think differently.

Tackling difficult subjects through fiction is an ideal way to do so. I believe fiction has a unique power to engage widely with people. It is its ability to emotionally draw a reader in and to have them walk side-by-side with characters, completely immersed in their world which gives it that power. Novels are an incredibly flexible tool enabling the writer to take a set of facts and fill the gaps with fiction which can take readers to literally any time or place. This is what I love about reading, and writing. To learn something of the world, of human nature and ideally, how we can all be more compassionate towards each other. I don’t think any subject should be off-limits for fiction. Tackled in the right way, with humanity and understanding, novels can be the perfect forum for exploring and engendering discussion.

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That is absolutely fantastic Louise, thank you. I couldn’t agree more. I’m so looking forward to reading The Hidden Child and would like to thank you for this wonderful guest post.

About Louise Fein

Louise Fein was born and brought up in London. She harboured a secret love of writing from a young age, preferring to live in her imagination than the real world. After a law degree, Louise worked in Hong Kong and Australia, travelling for a while through Asia and North America before settling back to a working life in London. She finally gave in to the urge to write, taking an MA in creative writing, and embarking on her first novel, Daughter of the Reich (named People Like Us in the UK and Commonwealth edition). The novel was inspired by the experience of her father’s family, who escaped from the Nazis and arrived in England as refugees in the 1930’s. Daughter of the Reich/People Like Us is being translated into 11 foreign languages, has been shortlisted for the 2021 RSL Christopher Bland Prize, the RNA Historical Novel of the year Award 2021 and long listed for the Not The Booker Prize 2020.

Louise’s second novel, The Hidden Child, was published in the Autumn of 2021. Louise lives in the beautiful English countryside with her husband, three children, two cats, small dog and the local wildlife who like to make an occasional appearance in the house. Louise is currently working on her third novel.

For further information about Louise, visit her website, follow her on Twitter @FeinLouise and find her on Facebook and Instagram. There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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