The Foundling

Agnès Desarthe

Published: 7 February 2013
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 240 pages
ISBN: 9781846274121


Jerome is a calm man - at least, that's what he'd always believed. But when his daughter's boyfriend dies in an accident, he is overwhelmed by unexpected grief. As he struggles to make sense of the loss and his own reaction to it, he finds himself assailed by emotions and memories he has allowed to lie dormant: the residual feelings for his ex-wife; a baffling new attraction to a stranger; a precarious friendship with a retired policeman; and, above all, unsettling questions about his own past and the family he never knew. In returning to the forests of his childhood and the darkest nights of the second world war, Jerome gradually, painfully begins to piece together the truth of his own origins and the tragedy that his adoptive parents tried to bury.

About the author

Image of Agnès Desarthe

Agnés Desathe was born in Paris in 1966 and has written many books for children and teenagers, as well as adult fiction. She won the Prix du Livre Inter in 1996 for Un Secret sans importance and has had two previous novels translated into English: Five Photos of My Wife (Flamingo, 2001), which was short-listed for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the Jewish Quarterly Fiction Prize, and Good Intentions (Flamingo, 2002). More about the author


The Foundling has enough plot to count as a page-turner, yet it still surprises with occasional profundities... Desarthe's portrayal of a young woman devastated by grief is potent... translator Adriana Hunter's rendering of the prose is flawless’ Arifa Akbar



‘A complex story of how random events can bring powerful change into a seemingly settled life, launching it in unexpected new directions... the book reads elegantly and seamlessly... deserves to be successful’ Tom Cunliffe

‘A superb study of grief that is both personal and national; a heartbreaking twist reveals the unspoken origin of Jerome's first name in a country full of buried tragedies. Brilliant and devastating’ Kate Saunders

‘An intriguing and charming novel, caught somewhere between real life and waking dream. Bewitching’

‘At the same time sombre and luminous, disturbing and soothing, Desarthe's latest novel surprises and enchants. A magnificent tale’

‘Desarthe charms with her delicate dissection of the human heart’ Emma Hagestadt

‘Desarthe's novel asks how adults and children alike survive emotional pain - through forgetting or remembering? A dream-like book’ Adrian Turpin

‘Desarthe's quirky French bestseller is conceived in hazy, impressionistic prose that occasionally feels like one is reading through a fine mist, but it captures the ennui of the featureless country town’ Alfred Hickling

‘In the moments when Jerome claws into the soil with his bare hands, digging for his identity, you can understand The Foundling's success in France’ Ben Felsenburg

‘One of the marvels of the literary season’

‘This sensitively translated novel is an insightful portrayal of emotional reawakening... incisive, lyrical and gently humorous’ Natasha Blumenthal

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