I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to go with this book and as I write this review, i’m still not sure. Some parts infuriated me.

The book begins with a young street urchin in 18th Century London who has a brother (at least she thinks he is her brother) until he is snatched from the streets and press ganged onto a ship. She is left alone.

This little, spirited urchin finds her way to a home for foundlings after attempting to steal a mans wig. Here, the little girl is given a name, fresh clothes and a roof over her head. It is this part of the book which becomes a little ‘orphan annie’. Newly named Dawnay Price feistiness leads her to teach herself to write and be recognised by one of the patrons of the home and as she grows into her teenage years, gets to leave the home and live with the patron as his daughter for as long as she likes.


Dawnay is independent and wants to forge her own path. She does not want to marry or conform to the rigid rules and social etiquettes of women at that time. This part of the book I found interesting and enjoyed the descriptions of locations, flora, fauna and nature as Dawnay fulfils her dream of being a Natural Philosopher. It must have been such an exciting time for scientists and natural philosophers in an era where everything was new and out there to be discovered and studied.

In these years Dawnay is fascinating and insufferable at the same time; shouting her opinions and behaviours which would offend people now, not just in the 1800’s. I couldn’t quite buy this side of Dawnay. Even if she was that spiritied, she is also shown as smart, and feel there is no way she would be so silly as to behave in such a way. Even with artistic licence of a fiction book, Dawnay’s life was pretty rosy for a street orphan in London and she seemed to get away with a hell of a lot.

The ending was a slight fizzer for me and I expected more of street smart, forthright Dawnay, but others will enjoy the ending I’m sure.

A great book for anyone with an interest in history, natural science and a strong female lead.

Steady 3 out of 5 stars from me.

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Given to me for honest review by Hachette publishing.

The Book Jacket

In the 18th century, Dawnay Price is an anomaly. An educated foundling, a woman of science in a time when such things are unheard-of, she overcomes her origins to become a natural philosopher.
Against the conventions of the day, and to the alarm of her male contemporaries, she sets sail to Portugal to develop her theories. There she makes some startling discoveries – not only in an ancient cave whose secrets hint at a previously undiscovered civilisation, but also in her own heart. The siren call of science is powerful, but as war approaches she finds herself pulled in another direction by feelings she cannot control.