Reading for research… Relative Strangers

Hunter DaviesThe sub-title of this book is ‘A history of adoption and a tale of triplets’ and it is a fascinating read if you are at all interested in family history and adoption. Yes, there is some history, but Hunter Davies keeps you turning the pages by telling in parallel the story of three babies, triplets, separated at their birth in 1932.

May 18, 1932. Kate Hodder gives birth to triplets – rare in those pre-IVF days – and dies the next day. Her husband, jobbing gardener Wills, is left with the three babies plus six older children. He cannot cope. Two go to live with grandparents, and four go to Barnardo’s. The triplets are adopted separately, with seemingly no effort made to keep them together. They live their lives, until finally reunited in 2001. The process of their lives, the changes to adoption law, and the roles of real people such as Thomas Barnardo and Pam Hodgkins, founder of adoption counselling service NORCAP, is told seamlessly by Davies.

Florence was the first to be adopted. Aged eight months, she went to live in Devon. Adopted by Emily Davy, a single mother who ran a guest house, Florence’s name was changed to Gill. She had a happy, secure childhood. She found out she was adopted aged 13, told in the playground at school.

May was adopted aged two, and her name changed to Helena Mary. Adopted by a clergyman and his wife, along with another adopted girl Pam. From the beginning, Helena knew she was adopted, knew she was one of triplets. But information was minimal.

John William was adopted last of the three, at the age of three and a half, by a grocer in Beverley, Yorkshire. His name was changed to David, he was not told by his parents that he was adopted.

This is an easy read about a fascinating subject, Hunter Davies handles the complicated storyline with ease.

‘Relative Strangers’ by Hunter Davies [UK: Sphere]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Researching #adoption history: RELATIVE STRANGERS by Hunter Davies via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1rs

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