Cover Image: Lily


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Lily by Rose Tremain
The character of Lily is brought alive by Rose Tremain.  The writing is so vivid that powerful images are formed and she creates a character in whom the reader fully believes. Lily’s life begins as she is rescued by Sam Trench, a young policeman, and carried through a storm to the Coram Foundling Hospital.   From here Lily is sent to live with Nellie Buck, her husband and three boys on a farm.   The relationship between lily and Nellie is wonderfully evoked through small details such as the fact that Lily would stroke Nellie’s earlobes as she drifted off to sleep.
We know from the outset that Lily has committed a terrible deed and the events which led to this are revealed as we travel backwards and forwards through Lily’s life.  There is not much joy in Lily’s life but there are some beautifully evoked moments of pleasure such as the eating of yellow apples with Bridget and the scarlet gown which Belle lets her wear to the opera.  
It is a powerful story which builds to its satisfying conclusion.
I will be wholeheartedly recommending this novel to my various book groups. Many thanks to the author, the publishers and to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in return for an honest review.
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Rose Tremain is one of our greatest living authors.  No matter what the subject, her writing immediately draws the reader in to the world she creates.  And her subjects are so diverse, but every story is a compelling microcosm of people and time.

In Lily, she explores a dark Victorian world.  One where poverty causes children to be abandoned and taken in by a bleak and harsh Foundling Hospital. This is Lily’s story; rich in detail and characters as the narrative moves between past and present after opening scenes where the reader learns Lily has killed someone. Lily and another girl, Bridget, become childhood friends and my heart almost broke as their stories unfolded.  They were subjected to the vagaries of the staff and the discipline expected at the Foundling Hospital.  Lily was discovered abandoned and near to death by a policeman. His story and actions are further explored in this complex tale of hope, despair and survival against the odds. 

It’s a powerful tale with memorable characters and I really enjoyed this glimpse into a different world.  Historical fiction at its best.  My thanks to the publisher for a review copy via Netgalley.
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This is historical fiction at its rawest and most brutal. I love historical fiction and what I liked about this book is its incredible honesty about this era and what it was like for some.  There is a danger that some historical fiction romanticises history but this book definitely doesn’t do that,  This is a sad and poignant read as we follow Lily's life.  The story is told by Lily as she reflects back on her childhood and her current life until her past and present come together.
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I have yet to be disappointed in any book written by the wonderful Rose Tremain. Her latest book “Lily”, although shorter than many of her books, is full of wonderful descriptions which feast the senses and take you back in time to the period that this book covers. Most of us know about the plight of orphans well into the twentieth century. Dickens talks about orphans especially those, like Oliver Twist, who were forced to carry the sin of the mother. Lily is just such a child desperate to know why she was abandoned. She ended up in an orphanage founded by Thomas Coram, a cruel place where unthinkable acts are carried out on children. There are characters in this book who want to help Lily but some let her down. She was too scarred by all she had suffered to be able to be happy. She is forever watchful.  The book is very sad but historically accurate and very well written with memorable characters such as Belle. Thank you Netgalley. A book for my book group!
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A story, set in Victorian London, which moves between country and city, to the sobering and somber setting of the Foundling Hospital. The story follows Lily, who after being abandoned as a baby, is taken to the Foundling Hospital. What is sad that, even though she is adopted, by law children have to be returned to Foundling Hospital for education and life takes a very different turn for Lily.
This is a story of sadness, it's pretty dreary and plenty of hardship. There's some balance with kindness and bursts of hope.
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It's an interesting story that does immerse you into Victorian Life, be it in the lovely Suffolk countryside, the dirty streets of London, or the awful Foundling Hospital.  

We follow Lily from when she is found abandoned as a baby up until she is around 18 years old.  I felt her plight of feeling returned by her foster parents, but not knowing that by law she must be sent back so her training can begin to be able to become a worker in the future.  Eventually, she goes out to work and she does well at the wig emporium, as her foster mother taught her how to sew well.

Lily is actually a sweet-natured girl, making friends with another girl at the hospital and they both try to run away to find their foster parents.  but because they try to escape, one of the Nurses is cruel to her.

The story is less about her being a murderer and more about her plight in these times.

It was a short book and overall I found it quick and generally easy to read. However, I did find that the narrative jumped about from the present to her childhood with her foster parents, then at the Foundling Hospital which at times caused confusion, and there were no chapter breaks, just one paragraph after another.  I don't know if this was because it was an ARC, but it certainly didn't help.

I received this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review.
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I read this ARC for an honest review
All thoughts and opinions are mine

This is a sad tale - I found it very moving
Well researched and very descriptive which was interesting
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Although this is a clearly meticulously researched glimpse at a much neglected side of Victorian London it just didn't capture me in the way I'd hoped it would. Although Lily is an engaging character you can't help but root for the book just felt a little meandering and lack lustre.  Although jumps in the timeline within a narrative is usually a device which can work well, in this instance it just didn't work for me.
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All just a bit flat and depressing, really. Lily spends the entire novel recounting her childhood, 11 years of which was sheer, unadulterated misery, and worrying about being hanged for murder. It opens with a hanging and ends with a plan for suicide . I kept waiting for some light in the darkness, but no, not a flicker. Dull, depressing and not even so beautifully written the words can lift you from the deep.
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'Lily' is an emotional story that touched me deeply. The characters are mainly women, living through poverty and suffering, making the most of what life throws at them. 
Strength, perseverance and moments of happiness are delivered in a realistic voice.
Historical fiction at its best.
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Abandoned in as a new born baby. Lily Mortimer is rescued by Sam Trench - a policeman - and taken to a Foundling Hospital where she kept for a short while before being handed over for adoption. Back in 1850 this adoption was strictly limited to 6 years after which she had to be returned to the hospital to be educated so as to supposedly ensure she would of value to society when released . Poor Lily suffers terrible hardship with this transition from quiet rural setting ,with loving adoptive parents, back into the brutal and cruel world of the Foundling Hospital in dirt shrouded London. We then follow her through her post Hospital years where hardship, strong character and love all feature. But Lily is deeply traumatised by an act of revenge she takes and is forever seeking to unburden herself of the guilt. Does she succeed, does she find love, does she find peace are all questions to which the reader seeks answers. Answers there are but, as with all good writing, some questions remain.
Sensitive, engaging and immersive, this is a novel that vividly takes us back to a very different world where societal rules, albeit unintentionally, often caused dreadful lifelong trauma and hardship.
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It is one of the ironies of being a voracious fiction reader that topics may come along together like the proverbial buses. Tremain has chosen to produce an historical novel that focuses on a child raised in the 18th century Coram Foundling Hospital in London. Her main character, 16 at the time of the novel, is called Lily. The revenge referred to in the title will be addressed as she is seeking for her lost mother, the date is possibly some unspecified period of the early 19th century.
Much of Lily’s story will be based on her recounting her memories of her earlier life. She, like other Coram residents, was fostered out as a baby, either to death, or on reaching the age of six to be returned to the main Hospital buildings for training. We are told that Lily was initially transferred to a loving and caring farming foster family in Suffolk and this formed the foundation of her essential self. On return to Coram she attempted to try and escape and return there, but later had to settle to institution life. At twelve she is apprenticed out; this is the life she is still living at the time of the novel; working for “Belle Prettywood’s Wig Emporium” where apparently she is making a reasonable and rising life for herself. Tremain gives a detailed picture of a small specialist workshop making wigs for an opera company.
But throughout Lily is searching and failing to find her unknown mother. She is also living with the expected fallout of a not immediately explained “revenge” she has taken for the harsh conditions of Hospital life. A complication to this is that she was bizarrely rescued from death as an abandoned baby by a young policeman. He is still keeping a watchful eye on her as she grows, but although she appreciates the care given by him and his wife, she knows her criminal action in the past will cause deep moral and professional issues for him too.
While I found the historical background of the novel of interest, I had certain reservations both as to accuracy and the almost avoidance of the practical harshness of poverty at this time – so the text did not feel real. But overall the presentation required a suspension of disbelief as much of the novel required very detailed memories of agricultural life - it is unlikely for a child under her sixth birthday to carry these. So too the speed with which a lone Lily seemed to establish herself in a job, although another hypothesis seems to have been that Lily’s first six years of “family life” and love gave her essential skills to move forward in extraordinary ways. Add to that the “revenge” theme that was required to bulk out the novel and carry it forward, one might perhaps expect something more likely. In short as someone who regularly reads and enjoys Tremain novels, this is one I found unsatisfactory and disappointing,
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A sad tale of a foundling girl going from her lovely foster home in Suffolk back to the foundling hospital where despite making a friend things are really tough. 

Good descriptions of life in Victorian England and the huge gulf between the classes. An interesting tale, Will Lily ever escape and find happiness!
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Rose Tremain does write a good historical tale. Foundlings, merry farmers, orphanages, debauched wig makers, with a side of murder - this book has it all. I did find some of the changes in timeframe a bit abrupt - but it could be that my early copy had some formatting issues. All in all this a charming read, for all of her faults I was rooting for Lily throughout and was delighted to be reading a book from Rose Tremain who I have always enjoyed but have not seen much from recently.
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Rose Tremain is an absolute favourite author of mine and I look forward to reading anything that she publishes. The nature of this story was appealing to me on many levels, such as the Victorian London setting, the mystery of Lily's secret and the coming of age element as we follow Lily from a very young child into adulthood. However, I must admit that this is not my favourite of Tremain's books. 

The book is quite short in comparison to Tremain's previous work and I feel like the story suffered as a result. Tremain has a gift for detailed characters and settings as well as slow moving plots that unravel secrets and layers of complexity as the plot progresses. Due to the shorter length I felt like these aspects were quite weak in the story. At times the pacing was so fast that it was like reading a summary of the story with a lot of things being told to the reader rather than shown. 

The plot was well constructed and the different timelines were handled nicely too so it made for an enjoyable story. I couldn't help but root for Lily after such a difficult start in life and multiple obstacles and challenges she has to overcome to find a safe place to call home. 

I just wanted more depth and detail to the book to get fully immersed in the story but unfortunately this was missing that spark I see so frequently in Tremain's novels. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK for the ARC.
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A new novel by Rose Tremain is always a treat and this is no exception. It’s beautifully written and transported me easily to Victorian London and to the countryside. Details of the setting and atmosphere are so realistic, they bring the story to life and give it a memorable sense of place. It’s easy to feel for poor Lily and her terrible childhood at the foundling hospital, after six happy years in the countryside with the Buck family. I despaired sometimes that she would ever find happiness! But Lily is strong and resourceful, her character and fortunes kept me enchanted and I would definitely recommend this novel. Five stars!
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A beautifully written story of an abandoned baby who was equally loved and despised throughout her early life. Making sense of her abandonment and the cruelty at the Foundling Hospital was difficult in the extreme. Small comforts helped her cope with a life so hard that we can’t possibly understand in our modern world of warmth and plentiful food. Rose Tremain encapsulates the hardship, cruelty and poverty of Victorian England in this stunning novel but at the heart of the story is one of enduring love and hope.
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This is a fabulous book that is so well written you can almost feel the smog of London. It is totally different as it will keep you guessing for a very long time. 
I have not read anything by the author before but the writing is so strong and the characters are amazingly well described they felt real.
This is a book I will remember for a very long time.
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A rather wonderful though very sad book. I suppose you could argue that the Victorian poor child , beaten and starved is a well trodden path but I really enjoyed this tale. So engrossed I wasn't bothered by the things that seem to niggle everybody else. Never read any Rose Tremain before and I think I have missed out. Maybe it was the setting of the book in a county I know extremely well (and an acknowledgement to a hospital I love) that made it mean more to me. Some of the sentences just leapt out at me- their human forms cast no shadows, as if they were no longer standing upright in the world. 
I was fully engaged with Lily and rooting for her the whole way through.
This book , although very sad, was delightful
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Okay. I honestly think this book could have been brilliant - and maybe is??? - but there was a major problem for me. I’m not sure if it was just the format I was reading it in or if it’s intentional, but the time jumps are confusing af. I love a story with multiple timelines - get me all over it! However, this book literally changed timelines in the middle of a paragraph: no warning or anything!! As I went through it and knew the characters a bit more, it became easier to recognise when it switched, but I honestly didn’t even realise at the start because there was no sign of anything.

That trauma aside, this book is good! It’s very sad and quite intense and I really really felt for Lily. Her character is trying to get you to believe she’s this evil, terrible person who’s done a great wrong, but from what happens to her through the book, you just don’t feel that at all!

Quite an emotionally strange story, but I really liked the ending?! Still not 100% certain about how I feel, but definitely worth reading if you’re up for feeling a bit lost and confused!
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