Review: Nobody’s Child by Kate Adie

As a journalist, Kate Adie has a knack for interviewing people, and getting them to open up, and it’s knack that’s displayed in Nobody’s Child from the get-go.

Partially a memoir about Adie’s own upbringing as an adopted child, partially a history of foundling children, adoption and fostering, and partially a collection of interviews, Nobody’s Child is shot through with humanity.

Adie frames each chapter of Nobody’s Child around a question, from the opening “what is your name?” to the closing “do you have a criminal record?”. Some questions may seem like they’re easy to answer, but Adie’s purpose is to explore what these questions mean for people who don’t have access to those pieces of information that we so readily attribute to being part of someone’s identity.

I really liked the social history Adie dotted throughout Nobody’s Child, looking at the different ways in which church, state and society at large, in a variety of countries, tried to deal with abandoned, unwanted and orphaned children, most of the time unsuccessfully or with a cruelty they did not seem to acknowledge.

In between this, and her own story, come the stories of various people Adie has interviewed, nearly all of them foundlings. And it’s with these stories that the book becomes less like a book, and more like watching someone be interviewed. In most cases, Adie chooses to reproduce entire conversations with her interview subjects, which often are monologues. It’s unconventional in a narrative book, and unlike anything of Adie’s that I’ve read before, but it’s powerful reading when it comes complete with rhetorical questions, awkward comments, half-told jokes and more.

Nobody’s Child is a moving read, at once both the personal story of Adie and her interviewees, and also a damning account of the difficulties foundlings have faced, and still continue to face. It’s a book to make you angry, but also one filled with hope.

How I got this book: Bought

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