Earlier this summer I received a copy of The Unseen, courtesy of William Morrow Books. I was really excited about this particular book, as it had all the makings of something I would love: England, a little dabble in the occult/supernatural, history, and some mystery thrown in for good measure.
From the back cover, here is a quick synopsis:
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.
The pace of the book is slow, but that’s to be expected with a historical novel. I found, at times, that it was a little too cumbersome for my personal liking. Things picked up considerably towards the end of the book. I am never sure how I feel about that – packing all the excitement into one third of a novel.
The presence of the occult was very understated – so if you’re looking for a book that focuses on that as a central them, this isn’t it. I was absolutely fascinated by the whole Cottingley Fairies back story from which this book draws its basis. It was only a peripheral part of the book, though.
The characters were fairly well developed, and easy to empathize with. Ms. Webb is a good storyteller, and this really was a compelling read despite its slow development. Unfortunately I was not as enamored with it as I wanted to be. It wasn’t a quick read…the plodding pace made it difficult to get through. The P.S. Insights, Interviews, and More section at the end redeemed the book a bit. I definitely plan to look into some of the suggested further reading and really enjoyed the story behind why Ms. Webb wrote the book.
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (May 22, 2012)