A book about child custody, patriarchy, and finding truth in the past

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‘This is a wonderful work of history, a fascinating story, told in a brilliantly imaginative way, and an absolute joy to read.’

Professor Bain Attwood, Telling the Truth about Aboriginal History, Possession: Batman’s Treaty and the Matter of History

‘a feat of historical ventriloquism [and] A searching and often moving exploration of the territory between history and fiction.’

Emeritus Professor Graeme Davison, The Use and Abuse of Australian History, Lost Relations: Fortunes of my Family in Australia’s Golden Age

About Zoffany’s daughter

2nd July 1825: Cecilia Zoffany, daughter of a famous artist, flees to the island of Guernsey with her two young daughters, one of them disguised as a boy. Alone and distressed, the beautiful stranger seeks the help of locals in a desperate attempt to retain the custody of her children. Her estranged husband, a London clergyman, follows close behind.

Time is running out for Cecilia and everyone is watching. A mother’s love stands defiantly against the absolute rights of a father. The Royal Court of Guernsey is called upon to adjudicate. The press, local gossips and her apparent new friends all have their say. Whom can Cecilia trust? And, given the evidence, why should we trust her? Meanwhile, Cecilia’s elder daughter confides in her diary …

This is a true story. But how much of it should we believe?

Read the introduction

Zoffany’s daughter:
love and treachery on a small island

by Stephen Foster

Published in in the United Kingdom by Blue Ormer Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-9928791-4-3
Published in Australia by South Solitary Press
ISBN: 978-0-646-97141-4

Praise for Zoffany's Daughter

'What a good read this is! The result of extensive research into a bitter child custody battle in Guernsey in 1825, this book mixes classical scholarly historical narration (with endnotes), invented diary entries and details, and thoughtful reflections on the nature of history, truth, and fiction. An excellent example of historical fiction, or more accurately, I think, fictionalised history, it is bound to prompt many lively conversations – between friends, in reading groups, and in history classrooms. I was engrossed from beginning to end.'

Professor Emerita Ann Curthoys, co-author of Is History Fiction? and How to Write History that People Want to Read

'Having discovered an intriguing story, Stephen Foster researched it diligently and fashioned an ingenious way to tell it. His book has many layers – biography, social history, Guernsey culture, art theory, historiography.... He brings the past alive, entertains and educates, and leaves the reader thinking. Literary groups will have enormous fun discussing this elegant volume.'

Dr Gregory Stevens Cox, author of St Peter Port 1680-1830: the History of an International Entrepôt

'A gripping tale of love and intrigue with many unexpected twists and turns which play with the sympathies and emotions of the reader. The story is told through contemporaneous reports and statements, and vividly through the imagined diary of one of the main participants. Added realism comes from the setting in old St Peter Port, which has changed little in the ensuing years. As an account of family discord and court battles, the story is painfully familiar.'

Sir Richard Collas, Bailiff of Guernsey

'This startling, intimate, enigmatic story points to some large questions about the beginnings of modernity, or at least about the beginnings of the age of spin. How much of Cecilia Horne, Zoffany’s daughter, was real, even to herself – apart from her pain? Stephen Foster’s book is a wonderfully easy interweaving of wit, irony and scholarship, which also makes you wonder what history itself really is.'

Emeritus Professor Alan Atkinson, author of Camden and The Europeans in Australia (3 vols)

'Caught between two families and two laws, Clementina, daughter of the famous artist Zoffany, struggles to keep custody of her child. In a feat of historical ventriloquism, Stephen Foster brings us her story, as though through her own eyes and in her own words. A searching and often moving exploration of the territory between history and fiction.'

Emeritus Professor Graeme Davison, author of The Use and Abuse of Australian History and Lost Relations: Fortunes of my Family in Australia's Golden Age

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