The foundling hospital

My mother’s secret life was a Dickensian horror story

What happens to a child raised without love? This is the agonising question that the American lawyer Justine Cowan braces herself to address in a memoir that seeks to explain her relationship with Eileen, her monster of a mother. As her parent’s gaunt figure lay in hospital, vanishing within the fog of a disease that had robbed her of ‘a few words here, a memory there’, Justine forced herself to say the words that she thought her mother wanted to hear. However, long devoid of empathy for someone whose behaviour had baffled, undermined and almost destroyed her, Justine knew a false expression of love was ‘balm for a dying old