Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Unseeing

The Unseeing

Anna Mazzola

3 out of 5

It is 1837 and the city streets teem with life, atmosphere and the stench of London. Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother, has been sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of her wedding.

Edmund Fleetwood, an idealistic lawyer, is appointed to investigate Sarah's petition for mercy and consider whether justice has been done. Struggling with his own demons, he is determined to seek out the truth, yet Sarah refuses to help him. Edmund knows she's hiding something, but needs to discover just why she's maintaining her silence. For how can it be that someone with a child would go willingly to their own death?

THE UNSEEING is a vividly written novel of human frailty, fear and manipulation, and of the terrible consequences of jealousy and misunderstanding.

After the horrendous murder, and butchering of Hannah Brown; it is up to Edmund Fleetwater to discover whether the angelic Sarah Gale could really have been a part of it. But she is keeping secrets, she is keeping faith.

I received a copy of The Unseeing from NetGalley.
This was a nice read.
It is a very well-written book, it's tone and content is very suited to the 1830's London in which it's set.
As a historical book, it is very easy to read, and fall into. There is a lovely description of every person, place, and daily occurrence. Mazzola's writing style makes everything ring very true.

You start with a murder, and the two convicted parties - Sarah Gale, and James Greenwood, who are found guilty of killing Hannah Brown; of dismembering her body, and hiding it from the police.  For these crimes, they are both sentenced to hang.
Because of pressure from certain groups, and the high media interest in the case, lawyer Edmund Fleetwood has been assigned to discover whether Sarah's sentence is suited, or if she is innocent.
There is the slow unravelling of Sarah's life, the difficult circumstances that brought this gentleman's daughter to London; the struggle that she and her sister had, now society wouldn't support them.
She refuses to say anything about Hannah Brown's murder, but Edmund starts to piece together the truth of the situation; of a man prone to violence; the wife-beating that is widely ignored; how a woman cannot build herself back up, after a man has cast her out.

The not-so-good.
I found the book very repetitive.  Both in the sense that characters would think something; say something; then have a secondary character say it back to them, all on the same page.  Also, the feeling that no progress was being made.
The parts where you saw flashbacks of Sarah's life were very interesting; but the rest of the book was just a cycle of Edmund asking questions; Sarah avoiding answers; Edmund's father being over-bearing; and Edmund's wife feeling ignored.
I felt the book could have been half the length.  There were times I would pick it up to start reading, and have to flick back a few pages, because I was sure that I'd already read this part.  Nope, just repeating and reiterating.
Edmund would get excited that he was making progress, but when he stated what he had discovered, and what he was thinking (in his lawyerly way) it was in no way different to his assumptions at the beginning of the book.
It is only in the last fifty pages that the truth comes to light.  It is somewhat satisfactory, and in keeping with the tone of the book; but I wasn't doing cartwheels.

The cast of characters were good, and interesting for the most part.  They all have their secrets, and ambitions.  I liked that they didn't spell out the reasons for their actions, just because the main character is interrogating them.
But our main character, Edmund, is a wet sop.  He is a weakling.  He blames his father for controlling his life, but makes no effort to break free (until the very very end of the book).  He is a creature of another man's ambition, all the while he is pretending to be independent.
As a lawyer, he is very picky about his clientèle - they must not oppose his strict morals, and he would rather waste his time away, passively waiting for perfect cases to fall into his lap, rather than pro-actively seek them.
He's not a bad character per se, and he provides a logical narration; but I felt he wasn't interesting enough to be one of the main focusses of the story.

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