Monday, June 25, 2012

Julie's Review: The Unseen

Summary: From Katherine Webb, the author of the acclaimed international bestseller The Legacy, comes a compelling tale of love, deception, and illusion. A vicar with a passion for nature, the Reverend Albert Canning leads a happy existence with his naive wife, Hester, in their sleepy Berkshire village in the year 1911. But as the English summer dawns, the Cannings' lives are forever changed by two new arrivals: Cat, their new maid, a disaffected, free-spirited young woman sent down from London after entanglements with the law; and Robin Durrant, a leading expert in the occult, enticed by tales of elemental beings in the water meadows nearby. Quickly finding a place for herself in the underbelly of local society, Cat secretly plots her escape. Meanwhile, Robin, a young man of considerable magnetic charm and beauty, soon becomes an object of fascination and desire. Sweltering in the oppressive summer heat, the peaceful rectory turns into a hotbed of dangerous ambition, forbidden love, and jealousy—a potent mixture of emotions that ultimately leads to murder.  

Review: A few months ago Alice and I reviewed The Legacy by Katherine Webb and it had mystery, intrigue and drama woven into it.  The Unseen is an interesting novel about desires, truth and beliefs. It's about class in a changing English society. It's about the women's suffrage movement during this time and how it influenced women to stand up for themselves.

The Unseen definitely holds your interest throughout the book. It isn't a fast-paced book and could be a bit slow in parts but I never felt that I wanted to put the book down. I definitely wanted to know what happened to the characters. It was not as slow as The Legacy that is for sure.

Again, with this novel Ms. Webb does an excellent job of transporting you to 1911 and getting the ambiance of Cold Ash Holt and the town of Thatcham surrounding it.  You get wrapped up into the feel of The Rectory and the surrounding meadows, fields and river. You also get caught up in Leah story as she starts to unravel the truth behind the soldier found in a field in Belgium. You know this directly ties into the story of Hester Canning that we the reader have already been pulled into.

I can't say that I was surprised by the mystery that was reveled. I was more surprised by the series of events that led up to the event.

While I liked Hester, I felt a strong pull towards Cat. You rooted for her. You wanted her to get her freedom, to find love. This is what she fought for and struggled for. There is an exchange between Cat and Robin Durrant in the last 1/4 of the book and I think while this sums up the feelings of men back in 1911, I think it is still true today.

"I don't want to be forgotten. I..." He raises his hands, at a loss. "Is that the difference between men and women then? Is that why men excel, while women just exist? Why it's the names of men that last forever in history?" "Nothing lasts forever. Haven't you read Ozymandias?" "Keats?" he asks, and Cat just shakes her head. "Shelley. But the jokes on you. On men. Women are immortal. We leave traces of ourselves in our children, and our children's children; while men are out trying to be the first to claim a mountain."  ~page 294

Ms. Webb has a lot to say about the relationships between servants and their bosses. The treatment these people received depended upon the nature of the manor owner. Some could be incredibly cruel and some could be incredibly generous. Hester Canning fell more towards the later with both Ms. Bell and eventually with Cat.

If you are a fan of Kate Morton, then you will definitely enjoy Ms. Webb's novels. Ms. Webb is on her way to becoming a strong historical fiction writer. I am definitely looking forward to her next book, A Half Forgotten Song,when it is released in the fall.

 Final Take: 4/5


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