I have very conflicted and mixed emotions about this one. So apologies up front as I work through them here, and probably because it may not end with a particularly positive review.
I kept calling this The Unforgiven, more times than I was not. So then I started to quip that it must be The Unmemorable. A lot of my mixed feelings were being shared with Hoarder Elizabeth, and in reviewing the text messages written between us, I said I would finish the book and stew on it to see how I felt after mulling it over for a few days. (Elizabeth also said that it was a lot of Uns. ;-))
The Unforgotten was finished a number of days ago, and it ended up not staying with me as much as it might have given those ramble of emotions? It hasn’t, so I’ll stand by my original rating and continue to register my disappointment overall with it.
What originally enticed me to request this from Netgalley, was the blurb that this was “for fans of Louise Penny“. I find this to be incredibly misleading and I am completely baffled why this comparison would be made. It’s just a No in terms of thinking it’s in the wheelhouse of Louise Penny. (And here is a second book I’ve read recently where these comparisons to (beloved) authors are made and they are well off the mark (The Library at the Edge of the World / Maeve Binchy comparison).
Overall, I complained through much of it feeling it was a meandering walk-about and fairly predictable. The story switches back and forth from 1956 to 50 years later. It does this for each chapter, so that switch in time can be jarring in that you’re ripped from 1956 too soon to be in present day/50 years later. Betty’s viewpoint is from 1956 and switches to the viewpoint of Mary in 2006. The predictably of Mary’s identity became quite easy to identify, and in the end, the reveal/twist of the real killer is done in such a hurried, tumbled out way that it wasn’t terribly exciting for me. I was more frustrated by it at this point so the reveal was like oh, okay, that’s may not have been what I was expecting, but by this time I wasn’t bewitched anymore to particularly care enough. The fate of Betty becomes another tumble out/quickly told reveal at the very end of story too making that telling worth no more than a shrug for me. None of this is sounding terribly positive is it? I’m sorry, but really, The Unforgotten wasn’t a particularly positive read for me.
My complaining about it continued with Elizabeth and I harshly criticized it, especially after spending 6 pages reading about a character’s miscarriage. A paragraph devoted to the event would have been sufficient, but 6 pages? That’s a LOT of unnecessary description no? It’s understandable why I felt this was a wandering walk-about right?
Around the time I was reading The Unforgotten, a new book prize was launched. The Staunch Prize is on “the hunt for original thrillers” and will “be awarded to the author of a novel in the thriller genre in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered.
But is The Unforgotten the type of thriller the Staunch Prize is this speaking of? Are they talking about every book that deals with violence against women, or do they mean only the sensationalistic ones, the ones that puts it at the centre and sensationalizes the violence, making it the central and exploitive plot? There has been a great deal of backlash against this prize, most calling it misjudged, from authors like Elizabeth de Mariaffi, Sophie Hannah, and others like Sheena Kamal. Val McDermid wrote she disagrees with the new Staunch prize launched for thrillers that avoid sexual violence against women, “As long as men commit appalling acts of misogyny and violence against women, I will write about it so that it does not go unnoticed.’
But, don’t get me wrong, The Unforgotten is not this sensationalistic cookie-cutter plot, but it does deal with the serial killing of girls, but these killings are not the focus here. I also don’t think the Staunch Prize was created to be the champion of the #MeToo movement, I think it’s trying to champion the return of a thrilling, suspenseful novel and one where the it’s not the only thing published is if it has violence against women. If that’s coming through clearly? I’ve been looking through all the books I have shelved to read later, and so very many, from mysteries, thrillers and historical fiction titles have missing or murdered girls in it, but they aren’t the cookie-cutter sensationalized plot that I believe is what the Staunch Prize is tired of. I don’t want to appear hypocritical in supporting the prize, but then reading books that do have missing or murdered girls in it.
I can be fully behind this Prize, because I don’t think they are dismissing the importance of violence against women. I think they are crying out for the end of the beaten-to-death “Girl”___ titles, the ones that are being churned out continuously, ones which these Hoarders are tired of too. They too are begging for a smarter read.
I’m babbling and have gotten away from discussing The Unforgotten. To wrap this up, as I’ve now had the time and space from it, it hasn’t stayed with me as much as I expected it to, so I can remain comfortable with my rating. It’s a meh- take it or leave it kind of read for me. It had many pros and cons, but unfortunately, more cons for me. Unfortunate, but true.