Publisher: Allen & Unwin (Trade Paperback – 2 July 2020)
Length: 360 pages
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Acclaimed Australian author Caroline Beecham is back with another moving and compelling World War II historical drama with Finding Eadie.
London, 1943. As the war rages across the world, there is a demand for new books to not only distract the public from the grim realities of the war but to also entertain the troops as they fight. However, despite this increased need for books, the London branch of the Partridge Press publishing house is struggling due to wartime restrictions on resources and the damage done to their former offices. In order to survive, Partridge Press need a new bestseller and young staff member, Alice Cotton, has an idea for a book that will both appeal to the public and help lift their spirits. But before work can begin on this project, Alice suddenly leaves.
Alice’s absence is due to her secret pregnancy to an unnamed father. Determined to keep the baby, Eadie, Alice comes up with a plan to give birth in secret and then raise the baby with her mother, pretending it is a wartime orphan. However, Alice is unprepared for the ultimate betrayal by her mother, who steals the baby from her and gives it away in order to save her daughter’s reputation. Devastated, Alice searches for her daughter, and soon finds out that her mother gave the baby to baby farmers, people who make a semi-legal profit by taking unwanted babies and selling them to the highest bidder. Desperate to get Eadie back no matter the cost, Alice returns to Partridge Press and uses her book as a cover to get more information on the baby farmers. At the same time, she finds solace in an American, Theo Booth, who has been sent from the American office of Partridge to help salvage the failing British office. Can Alice find her daughter before it is too late, or will she lose Eadie forever?
Beecham is a talented and impressive author who is making a real impact on the historical drama scene due to her touching storylines that focus on fascinating aspects of the World War II experience. For example, her 2016 debut novel, Maggie’s Kitchen, focused on the struggles of opening a restaurant during the blitz, while her second novel, 2018’s Eleanor’s Secret focused on a young woman who was employed by the War Artist Advisory Committee. Finding Eadie is another powerful war drama that focuses on some intriguing aspects of the war.
At the centre of this book is an excellent dramatic storyline that focuses on two people trying to do their best in difficult circumstances. This story employs two separate point-of-view characters, Alice Cotton and Theo Booth, each of whom have their own intriguing and dramatic storylines. While Theo’s narrative of a young, conflicted, book-loving man who finds his true calling in war-torn London is very enjoyable, I really have to highlight the excellent story surrounding the character of Alice. At the start of the book, Alice has her baby, the titular Eadie, stolen from her by her mother and she spends the rest of the novel trying to find her. This is an incredibly powerful and emotional story thread which I found to be extremely moving. Beecham does an incredible job portraying Alice’s pain and distress throughout the course of the novel and the resultant raw emotion is heartbreaking and mesmerising in equal measures. This search for Eadie has a number of notable elements to it, including emotional confrontations between Alice and her mother, the continued strain impacting the protagonist the longer she is separated from Eadie, a compelling investigative narrative, and a dangerous dive into London’s criminal underbelly. The reader gets really drawn into the story as a result, as they eagerly wait to see if Alice will get a happy ending or if she will become another victim of the tragic circumstances surrounding the war.
On top of this compelling and dramatic storyline there is also a well-written, if somewhat understated, romantic angle between Alice and Theo. While it is quite obvious that the two are going to end up together (it is a historical drama with a male and female as the main characters, of course they are going to end up together), Beecham builds it up rather well, and while there are significant obstacles to their romance, such as Theo’s engagement to another woman and the fact that Alice is rightly more concerned with finding her baby, the two slowly realise their feelings for each other. Overall, the entire story comes together extremely well, and I found myself quite drawn to this excellent narrative which allowed me to read this book in remarkably short order.
While this book has an amazing story, I also really enjoyed Beecham’s examination of certain unique aspects of life during the war, which proves to be rather fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the exploration of the publishing world during the war, and this goes on to become a major and compelling part of the book’s plot. Beecham does a fantastic job highlighting what was going on during the publishing industry during the period in both England and America. This includes an impressive deep dive into the industry, exploring the importance of books during the period, the troubles involved with publishing during a war such as the lack of supplies, as well as also examining the sort of books that were popular at the time. I absolutely loved all this amazing detail about publishing during the war, and it was an outstanding highlight of the book. I also liked how well it tied into the rest of the book’s narrative as their love of books was not only a key element of both Alice and Theo’s personal storylines but also a major part of the characters, and it was something that made both of them more relatable and likeable to the reader, ensuring that they are more emotionally invested in the story.
In addition to the focus on the publishing world Beecham also explores other intriguing aspects of London during the war. Probably the most important one relating to the plot was the shocking practice of baby farming, where babies were bought and sold for profit. This was a remarkably horrifying aspect of history that I wasn’t too familiar with, but Beecham does a great job explaining it throughout her story, going into the history, the impacts, the surrounding social issues and the sort of the people that were involved. While most aspects of this are a tad disturbing, especially as it is based on some true historical stories, I found this entire inclusion to be really fascinating and it proved to be a compelling story element. I also quite liked Beecham’s examination of the London Zoo and how it survived during the war, and it was intriguing to see this small bubble of normality amongst the chaos of the blitz and the rest of the story. All of these incredible historical elements were really interesting parts of Finding Eadie’s story, and I had an amazing time learning more about London life during the war.
Finding Eadie by Caroline Beecham is a great and compelling historical drama that proved to be an excellent read. Containing a strong, emotional charged story, and featuring a clever look at some unique historical elements, this is a very easy book to enjoy which is worth checking out.