Yorkshire author inspired to write about love and loss after being tracked down by daughter she placed for adoption

Author Sandy Hogarth was a 19-year-old university student when she fell pregnant with her daughter. She’d grown up in the heart of a Presbyterianism church in a country town outside of Melbourne, Australia.

A child outside of wedlock would almost certainly have been frowned upon – and so Sandy kept her news hidden from her mother. "I couldn’t bear how much it would hurt her and the shame it would bring to her,” she says. “My father knew. We were trying to protect my mother. But it must have been quite hard for him knowing what was happening and not telling her.”

Sandy fled Australia and moved in with an acquaintance in London, telling her mother she was spending some time overseas. When her daughter Jane was six-weeks-old, she placed the baby for adoption. “I just felt bereft. I told her to not be afraid and that life would be good for her.”

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About eight years later, after her father’s death, Sandy eventually told her mother what had happened. “She just cried because she thought that she’d betrayed me and let me down,” recalls Sandy, who lives in Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire. “What she did do, which was the most wonderful thing, was put a photograph of Jane on the mantelpiece with all her other grandchildren.”

Author Sandy Hogarth, whose daughter was adopted.Author Sandy Hogarth, whose daughter was adopted.
Author Sandy Hogarth, whose daughter was adopted.

More than 25 years after she had parted from her daughter, Sandy received a letter in the post from the adoption society. Jane had found her – and she wanted to meet. "I had thought many times I could get a private detective and try to find her,” Sandy reflects, “but I thought that was wrong, I had to wait until she found me.

"When I got the letter, my hands shook as I knew exactly what it was. We wrote to each other over three or four weeks and then we met in a cafe...It was amazing, I saw her sitting there and knew it was her. I was very nervous and she was very nervous.”

That first contact paved the way for what was to come and nearing twenty years later, the pair have a happy relationship. “This was my life’s most important moment and, a little unexpectedly, found its way into my latest novel,” Sandy says.

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The Other was conceived as a tale about love and its pain and joy, and was inspired by her real life experiences. The book follows identical twins Clemmy and Helen, who were abandoned by their father, a painter, at birth. Aged 14, they break into his derelict studio, discovering a self-portrait and note he left for them. The find opens the first crack in the twins’ relationship and that only widens when, aged 16, their mother leaves them.

The Other is the third novel from Sandy, who first began writing whilst working in a food store in London. But after taking over the running of nine shops in the capital, her hobby began to suffer. Later, she moved to Yorkshire and spent time in academia – researching power and trust, but when she retired, Sandy turned her attention back to writing again.

The Other is out now, by Troubador Publishing.