Book Review: The Unseen by Katherine Webb
June 1, 2012 11 Comments
Number of pages: 456
First published: 2011 (this USA edition 2012)
Genre: historical fiction
I got this book: for review from William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins
A book set in England in the early 1900s always seems interesting to me (see also The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones). Faeries and a murder mystery: yes please!
The Unseen: What it is about
In Belgium, the body of a first world war soldier is found with in his pocket a tin with a few letters, written by a woman. Leah, a journalist from England, is alerted to the find, and hopes there is an interesting story to be told. The letters suggest some terrible event took place that had to be covered up.
Leah finds the house (in England) where the letters were sent from all those years ago and with help of the current occupant of the house, she finds out about the story behind the letters.
However, most of the book is the story back in time, about Hester Canning, vicar’s wife and the writer of the letters. She has recently hired a new maid, a young woman who has been in prison in London, but is given a chance to better her life at the rectory. Cat, the maid, has a hard time settling in.
Hester, whose marriage of a year has not been consummated, is doubtful about her husband’s new hobby. Albert believes he has seen nature spirits near the meadows in the vicinity of their house and he invites a young “expert” to come and stay with them to investgate his sighting further.
Both Hester and Cat have their doubts about this Robin Durrant, while Albert is sucked in further, neglecting his work as a parish priest. Things quickly turn sour for all people at the rectory.
The Unseen: What I thought
The book was well-written and the story built up nicely. The story line in the current time was not as important as the historical fiction part, and probably was unnecessary. But as I do like research into people’s history myself, I did enjoy Leah’s investigations just as much.
Cat was a strange girl and it’s clear that she has some secrets. She’s not too shy to walk into a gambling den and you keep hoping that Hester really made the right decision in hiring her. Cat is a wild type and might not want to be settled. Really, she represents the more modern life and way of thinking while Hester is stuck in the old-fashioned framework in which woman are lesser creatures than men who should obey their husbands at all times, even when the husband’s behavious becomes rather questionable.
A great read, a mystery.