The ghost of Lily Painter is not a ghost story as such, it is not scary, but it is so much more!
Annie Sweet lives in number 43 Stanley Road, Holloway, a house which she is instantly drawn to with her husband Ben, and daughter Molly. In 1901 Lily Painter along with her sister, father and step-mother had lived in the same house as lodgers of a Police Inspector and his family. Annie starts to look on the 1901 census, initially for family members but with few details to go on looks to see who lived in her house and becomes interested in Lily Painter, wanting to discover what sort of life she would have led.
The book is divided between the past and the present by devices such as Inspector William George writing a journal starting in 1901 detailing his life as an Inspector, his family life and the crimes of some baby farmers. Lily (the ghost) commentates about life as it was for her then, whilst observing the present day occupants of the house she has haunted for many years. We also have Annie Sweet detailing her present life with her daughter and the mounting interest she has in Lily Painter.
There is a lot of historical fact within this book, the named baby farmers who have their part in this story are based upon real people, well researched and smoothly inserted into the story line.
The story depends on more than a little coincidence but that in no way detracted from the immense pleasure I got from reading this book.
I recommend this book to those interested in this history of the 20th Century although there is enough substance in this book that I believe this book would be enjoyed by anyone who loves a good, well written story.
Read my review of Amelia Dyer – The Angel Maker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
After reading The Ghost of Lily Painter, a novel that draws upon the arrest and trial of Amelia Sach who was a baby farmer based in Finchley, I wanted to know more about how widespread this practice was.
A shocking story about baby farming in Victorian England
This book relays the life story of Amelia Dyer, born Amelia Hobley in 1838, the youngest of 5 children born to a relatively comfortable family for the times. The events surrounding the deaths of the children are truly horrifying. These children were entrusted to her care, often for  pounds to take full responsibility for the rest of their lives thereby relieving their families of any further involvement. The authors describe how many of these were drugged and starved to death. Amelia appears to have started this career by acting as a midwife who for a fee ensured that babies were stillborn before moving on to placing adverts in papers offering to take care of children for a premium. Amelia plyed her trade, intersperced with time in prison and mental asylums for many years before finally being investigated fully in 1896.
This book also goes some way to explain why single women were persuaded that answering the adverts was the answer to their problems, orphanages would often stipulate that their charges be true orphans and a single woman with a child could not easily find employment and ensure their child was cared for. The lack of money was not helped by an act passed in 1830 which meant a single woman could not claim money for the child’s upkeep from the father.
A sad but informative book about a period of history where real poverty enabled such a foul trade to flourish.
- Family Likeness – Caitlin Davies (cleopatralovesbooks.wordpress.com)
- Caitlin Davies, Hunter Davies and Margaret Forster – what a family of writers! (cleopatralovesbooks.wordpress.com)