England, 1911. Reverend Albert Canning, a vicar with a passion for spiritualism - and his naive wife, Hester - led a happy existence in the sleepy parish of Cold Ash Holt, Berkshire. As summer dawns, their quiet lives are changed forever by two new arrivals. First comes Cat, the new maid; a free-spirited and disaffected young woman sent down from London after entanglements with the suffragette movement and with the law. Over-educated for her station, Cat baulks at her life of servitude, quickly finding a place for herself in the secret underbelly of local society as she plots her escape. Then comes Robin Durrant, a leading expert in the occult, with whom Albert has been in correspondence, enticed to visit Cold Ash Holt by the vicar's tales of elemental beings in the water meadows around the village. A young man of magnetic charm and beauty, Robin Durrant soon becomes an object of fascination and repressed passion for Albert. During a long spell of oppressive summer heat, the rectory at Cold Ash Holt becomes charged with ambition, love and jealousy; a mixture of emotions so powerful that it leads, ultimately, to murder.
©2011 Katherine Webb (P)2011 Orion Publishing Group Limited
I have mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed the story for the most part, good murder/mystery element, but I felt the move from present to past could have been done better. I could see how the 2011 sections linked the story but the connections were weak, and Leah's love interest seemed unnecessary.
It was too slow in parts, and seemed to have unnecessary padding in places making it drag even more. A predictable and rather unsatisfactory ending, I only kept going to see if I was correct in my assumption of how things turned out - and I was.
I also didn't take to the characters, Hester was too simpering and Albert just plain irritating.
Not a winner for me, however Clare willie's narration was done well.
I would probably read rather than listen. I should say that I am very fussy when it comes to narrators, and Ms Wille was not up to par for me. Her characterisations were excellent, but the rest of the read was flat. The story, though, was excellent, and Katherine Webb is a gifted writer.
A generally well-written book, there are several moments where the prose is just gob-smacking. Some of the descriptions were sublime.
As mentioned above, I thought Clare Wille's characterisations were excellent, but the rest of the narration was dull, and at times felt like it was not in her natural voice. There were also some very annoying pauses after characters spoke.
Usually if I don't like a narrator, I don't finish the book. In this case, the story was so captivating that I continued, despite my misgivings about the narrator. I'm looking forward to reading and listening to more by Katherine Webb.
A captivating and magnificent story, extremely well written and beautifully narrated! This book has made it to the top of my favourites list.
The number one aspect is the strong character "Cat". You feel powerfully drawn to her from the moment she enters the story. She is the underdog (despite her nickname) with a really gritty character you are rooting for throughout.
The suffragette details through Cat's experiences were also presented well.
As mentioned already, the maid Cat. She'd been 'cruelly' educated above her station. She's almost ahead of her time.
I quite like the little scenes where you get to nose about as Cat reading letters and notes she finds whilst cleaning up at the rectory. Nobody suspects a maid would be able to read.
Quite a mix of feelings from anger and frustration, hope, disgust, admiration, joy. It helps having the Victorian class structure to show up the inequalities of position and sex at the time.
I'd like to commend the use of the present tense in the novel. It really helps in painting a picture of the various scenes.
I bought the audible book in a sale and didn't listen to it for a long time. Wondered why I'd bought it, however, it has ended up being one of my favourite reads of the year. I'll be looking out for other Katherine Webb publications. 5/5
"A good story but the audio lacks something ..."
This book was missing something ... usually with Audio books the audio adds to the characters, gives them personality and distinguishes them from one another, for me this one didn't. I loved the story but despite what I did to the audio - sped it up, slowed it down, I wanted to stop the lady reading to me, pick up the book and read it myself.
This was a bit of a gamble for me, not having read any Katherine Webb before, and thankfully it was a gamble that paid off: I very much enjoyed it. It's a historical book, and is well written. The narration is also good, I think. I felt in turns annoyed by and sorry for the Rev - he is a little naive, but very constrsined by both his profession and the times. It's an interesting time to set a novel, I think: lots of interesting social tensions and changes that can be brought into the book. I think this has been done well.
The plot and setting of this (audio) book are interesting in themselves, but it is through the character of "Cat" that the story grabs you by the throat. At first you do not notice this so much - the attention is on the development of the story. However, as the story progresses the only question in your mind becomes whether or not Cat will be able to extract herself from either her past or from what must be impending doom.
The narrator has done very well, her voice creating a fragile atmosphere of understated emotion through which what actually happens becomes almost unbearable. Once you are into the story, you will not want to stop listening.
"it was disappointing."
I usually like stories set in two time periods but for me this isn't one of the best.
the first hour had a lot of description in it and I was about to give up but carried on. the story settled down and I had high hopes for it.
I enjoyed the parts of the story set in 1911, it was well written and narrated by clare wille.
I liked Katherine (kat) who had been taught to read but having come from a lowly background had to be a maid. her strength at a young age to be faithful to her beliefs.
the parts set in 2006 were a means of starting the story and although there were only a few of them I feel the book would have been better without them. the historical part was good enough to stand on its own.
"Brilliant storyline and so well told"
She keeps you captivated with her intonation.
no it was too long but I looked forward to each listening session
I really enjoyed this book, the characters were likeable (or unlikeable - at least getting a response from me!) and the story was a delight, swapping from the time of the first world war to present times chasing the story that happened all those years ago.
There were a few leaps of thought that came up with correct theories, but they were easily swallowed.
I was hooked from the start, and having fancied the book by an author unknown to me I will certainly investigate her other offerings.
Lovely story, well told and nicely narrated.
"A bit different"
I liked the 1911 parts of the story and would have been happy to skip the present day narrative as the connection was rather weak. However, it was well read and enjoyable throughout and I would most certainly try another of her books. The climax was not as I expected and that made it all the better.
"Another Triumph for Katherine Webb"
I read Webb's first book The Legacy and loved it enormously. I thought it would be a tough book to follow, so I approached The Unseen with a sense of reserve as the premise didn't sound quite as tantalising...however the author did not disappoint. This book was fantastic and yet again Webb used her brilliant writing skills to create historical details across two eras. Her ability to create such an intricate and interesting sense of time and place is quite wonderful.
Put a repressed vicar, his naive virgin wife, a handsome house guest and a working class suffragette maid together and you get a fantastic story about relationships, barriers between the classes and the sexes and of course a dark secret buried in the past.
This books strength lies also in its atmosphere, the oppressing summer heat of 1911, the rough edged taverns of the town; the pounding thunderstorms and the restrained interior of the house. There is a real sense of foreboding in the story that is tinged with a silver lining of hope. Yet the concluding chapters of the book with leave the listener chilled to the core.
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