In the mid 19th century things were not very good for women! conventionality and conservatism seemed to be at its height. There were expectations for women and none of them were of being independent or free. Nell also knew this. At 17 she lived with her mother and step father who had distinct ideas on the role and place of women in life.
Getting pregnant, not getting married, not revealing the name of the father was not part of this scenario and the elaborate cover up had to be made. Nell ends up in a house for women in similar circumstances, where the babies will be given up for adoption to "good families" as against the "fallen women" from whom they originated.
The story gives you a very detailed and descriptive idea of the conditions of life for women in these circumstances. The House was also a home for people with mental disabilities, all classified as madness and treated very cruelly and attitudes of the general population towards them left much to be desired.
The book was in parts very emotional as Nell tried to overcome many obstacles to finally do what she wanted to do.
Nice story telling.