Where were you born, what's your date of birth? What if you couldn't answer these questions because you just don't know? In her third book, former BBC chief news correspondent Kate Adie has turned her insightful talents on giving a worldwide historical and political account of adoption and abandonment.

Adie interviews many foundlings, including some famous ones, such as Fatima Whitbread, the Olympic athlete. Being an adoptee herself, she is well equipped to get inside the mind of her interviewees.

Her mother became pregnant during the war in 1945 while her husband was serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps in India. To prevent a scandal, Kate was given up for adoption, which at the time, was common with around 9% of births being illegitimate.

Adie says growing up she never had issues with being adopted. She had friends in the same position and it was only until she got older that she started to question her origins. In the early 1990s she sought and found her birth mother and siblings and now has a very healthy relationship now with them. However, although her own situation was fortunate, Adie is well aware that it is a painful problem to many others.

Adie delivers a detailed account of how different cultures have dealt with foundlings and adoption. She discusses the present trend of adopting from countries such as Belarus, right back to the 14th century, when many church buildings in Europe were equipped with a revolving wheel, used to deliver an unwanted child to the care of the monks or nuns within.

She writes of inspiring people and organizations, but she is also critical of many countries and their policy towards the abandoned, for example China and Russia. Ireland does not escape, with Adie highlighting how, in the 1940s the Catholic ran what was in effect a baby-farming business, exporting infants to Catholic families in America. It wasn't until the actress Jane Russell tried to adopt an Irish baby that the scandal came to light. Russell went on to found World Adoption International Fund, which placed 51,000 children with adoptive parents.

A fascinating mix of history, current facts and anecdote, 'Nobody's Child' gives the abandoned and the adopted a voice, without ever judging the mothers that were forced to make the agonising decision, for whatever reason, to give them up.

Mary McCarthy