Author: Anne Goodwin
Published: October 2022 by Annecdotal Press
Category: Historical Fiction based on fact
All she has left is her sanity. Will the asylum take that from her too?
In 1939, Matilda is admitted to Ghyllside hospital, cut off from family and friends. Not quite twenty, and forced to give up her baby for adoption, she feels battered by the cruel regime. Yet she finds a surprising ally in rough-edged Doris, who risks harsh punishments to help her reach out to the brother she left behind.
Twenty-five years later, the rules have relaxed, and the women are free to leave. How will they cope in a world transformed in their absence? Do greater dangers await them outside?
The poignant prequel to Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is a tragic yet tender story of a woman robbed of her future who summons the strength to survive.
After Matilda (Matty) Windsor became pregnant, she was taken to a home for unmarried mothers and forced to give her baby up for adoption. When she left she didn’t know she wouldn’t be going home again. She was taken to Ghyllside Hospital and left there. Matty initially had no idea Ghyllside was a mental institution. She had no idea why her father would let her be taken there or why she had to stay. Her upbringing meant she was quite naive and had no experience of the wider world.
Matty’s story is tragic but not uncommon during the dark days when unmarried mothers were classed as ‘moral defectives’ and more often than not treated with unbelievable mental and physical cruelty.
Not all the nuns were cruel. Some of the younger ones would address the girls kindly if Mother Superior were out out earshot. So Matilda counted her blessings when Sister Bernadette slipped onto the seat beside her in the taxicab, while a sombre man with a box-shaped head took the passenger seat at the front. He resembled a tradesman in his white cotton coat worn over an ordinary jacket and trousers; Matilda assumed the nuns had offered him a lift out of charity. He wasn’t introduced.
Matty’s main concern was her six year old brother who she knew would be missing her, and wrote to him religiously over the years. Meanwhile as Matty tries to make sense of, and come to terms with her situation, she makes an unlikely friend in Doris, her polar opposite. Her friendship with Doris (and Eustace, who has his own story and is also very likeable) and Matty’s underlying determination not to see herself as mad or bad, helped to ease her sadness and rage at the injustices she suffered and see her through.
Stolen Summers is the hard hitting prequel to Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, which is in my to be read pile. I can’t wait to read it after this. This short story alternates between the years 1939/40 and 1964 when attitudes regarding unmarried mothers thankfully had begun to change.
The story is beautifully written and the characters brought to life fully so you can’t help but be drawn to Matty and Doris in particular, while exploring a horrific time in the not too distant past.
I chose to read and review Stolen Summers for Rosie Amber’s book review team, based on a digital copy kindly supplied by the author.
Anne Goodwin’s drive to understand what makes people tick led to a career in clinical psychology. That same curiosity now powers her fiction. Anne writes about the darkness that haunts her and is wary of artificial light. She makes stuff up to tell the truth about adversity, creating characters to care about and stories to make you think. She explores identity, mental health and social justice with compassion, humour and hope.
A prize-winning short-story writer, she has published three novels and a short story collection with small independent press, Inspired Quill. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize.
Away from her desk, Anne guides book-loving walkers through the Derbyshire landscape that inspired Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.
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You can find out more on Anne’s website.