Debut author Laura Powell comes to the blog today with a tale that mixes mystery, attraction, growth and stagnation all within the pages.
Using a dual timeline with multiple points of view, the story for Mary/Betty comes together to present a lives full of challenges and secrets, regrets and recrimination, but above all a chance to find some peace with the past. The Betty of 1956 is sheltered, naïve and constantly working to find a normalcy in her life with her mother: a woman who vacillates between frenetic and often drunken manic cheerfulness and near-catatonic depressions, leaving Betty to cajole, comfort and care for her. Add to that the fact that they live and run a small guest hotel in Cornwall, now full up with journalists seeking the story of the multiple murders of young women. Here the voice for Betty was as one would expect, although riddled with secrets and never quite able to know what she’ll wake up to from her mother: the tension within her, and her search for herself and acceptance is clearly presented and palpable.
Less certain for me was the older version of Mary/Betty: the stagnant feel of her voice: the multiple self-doubts, the avoidance of situations, the constant feeling that she was in a holding pattern from the events of her childhood just didn’t allow her to forget, share or even make sense of her life. Here is where I had some difficulty with the progression – since Mary’s perspective and point of view was truly stagnant, even as she was struggling for a way to move forward, the pace of her pieces were more muddled and felt disjointed.
The last major perspective is provided by John Gallagher: and his perspective is one of a man looking back on his life. He’s shuttered and used to keeping his own council, a man who never truly changed in his approach to life, or his secretive nature, in the years that have passed. When first meeting Betty in 1956, he was separate and different from the others:: alternating between friendly interactions to demanding demurral, to finding moments of connection with a child some 15 years his junior. Oh there is inappropriate behavior, and he’s more prone to running away from emotional situations, but his intentions while handled badly, were mostly skewed to the side of good.
This was a story with enormous intentions: Powell’s management of the different characters: their issues and foibles managed to create a sense of being in the midst of the story, particularly in terms of young Betty. What did pose problems for me, however, was the uneven pacing of the plot: from action-fueled moments to long stretches of navel gazing, my progression with the title was prolonged: it was most certainly not something I could, or wished to read in one sitting. While I have to say that I wanted to find the big reveal of the actual murderer, and to see if Mary/Betty would ever be able to put the past behind her in some small way, I had difficulties with the construction of the story, and it’s many stalling points on the way. An ambitious debut that fell a bit short for me in the flow, but delivered a story that did, after completion, did tie together in many areas while presenting a conclusion that surprised.
Title: The Unforgotten
Author: Laura Powell
Genre: Dark-theme, Dual Timeline, Family Saga, Historic Elements, Literary Fiction, Mystery Elements, Setting: Britain, Suspense
Published by: Gallery Books
Published on: 6 February, 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 9 Hours: 21 minutes
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Love, suspicion, and heartbreak collide in an evocative debut novel which will draw you in with clever twists and turns, and enticing secrets
Fifteen-year-old Betty Broadbent helps her erratic and beautiful mother run the Hotel Eden, a boarding house now besieged by reporters, keen for juicy gossip and eye-catching headlines. They are there because the Cornish seaside town has recently witnessed a string of murders, young girls stabbed to death. Among the newspaper jackals, Mr. Gallagher stands out. Quiet, serious Mr. Gallagher—Betty is fascinated by his mysterious nature and desperate to be noticed by him and not be treated as a child. As he and Betty get to know each other, through snatched conversation and illicit meetings, their feelings for each other grow. But she soon starts to realize how little she knows about the older, enigmatic journalist. With a dangerous cloud looming over the town, Betty starts to take risks to see him and hide secrets from her mother, her friends, and even herself—secrets that will echo through the years and affect the lives of many.
Beautifully written with skilllfully drawn characters, evocative language, and set partially in 1956 with perfect period depiction, this is an astonishing tour de force from debut author Laura Powell.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: