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The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola

The Unseeing (2016)

by Anna Mazzola

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Overwrought rendering of a Victorian murder with added characters as a way to examine the various ways in which women were regarded as guilty, regardless of what they had done or what was done to them. Contemporary echoes are hard to ignore. ( )
  Perednia | May 28, 2018 |
The big news story of early 1837 is the 'Edgware Road Murder' in which a dismembered body was found in pieces all over London. Found guilty and sentenced to death are James Greenacre and his common-law wife Sarah Gale. Whilst Grenacre admits disposing of the the body, the evidence against Gale is scanty and idealistic young lawyer Edmund Fleetwood is tasked with reviewing the case and making a recommendation as to whether the death penalty is appropriate.

Whilst this book is based on a true-life case, Mazola has chosen to weave a fiction around the few facts in evidence. The circumstances of the finding of the body, the trial and the sentences are fact but the motivation and many of the characters are fiction. Therefore this story fits somewhere between fact and fiction, I chose to read it as purely fiction - a novel inspired by a true event rather than a historical novel. When viewed in this way the book is actually a great read, the facts are horrible but the fiction creates a more romanticised view of motivations than was probably the truth. The book is well-researched, showing an understanding of life in late-Georgian London and the difficulties faced by women who are without the support of a man. This includes wives frustrated by the lack of household income, abandoned after an affair, the wife left alone after being deserted, and the family driven to poverty after the death of the father. Ultimately a sad but beautifully written novel. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
Ripped from the headlines of 1837! Based on the infamous Edgware Road Murder and the trial that followed in London, THE UNSEEING blends facts and fiction to bring to life this disturbing historical mystery.

Who killed Hannah Brown and why? Sarah Gale, poor seamstress and single mother of a small boy, sits in dismal Newgate Prison, waiting to hang for her part in the grizzly murder. But was Sarah unfairly convicted? Lawyer Edmund Fleetwood is sent to investigate. Edmund suspects she is not telling the whole truth about Hannah’s murder, which makes his job of saving her from the gallows very difficult.

This book was well researched and also gave readers an imaginative spin on the Edgware Road Murder. The author did a fantastic job conveying what life was like around the eve of the Victorian Era. It was difficult, to say the least, especially for a poor woman like Sarah. The pacing was slow in spots, and I was kind of annoyed that Sarah kept her secret from Edmund for so long. Clearly, he could be trusted, and Sarah had a child to consider too. I liked how the author had the crime and punishment play out in the end. It was fitting with the the actual events that took place.

Audiobook • 11 hrs, 26 mins • Liz Pearce, Narrator

I enjoyed Liz Pearce’s narration very much! There were several different characters from different classes, and her many accents were spot on and entertaining. I especially liked her voice for the awful prison guard Miss Sowerton. Her character was just as horrible as Newgate Prison itself!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  bookofsecrets | May 4, 2017 |
1837, during the course of this book, the Victorian age will be ushered in, and a young woman and mother would be sentenced to hang. When body parts of a murders woman are found in various areas, a Christmas Eve murder would be uncovered. The body traced back to James Greenacre, his live in mistress, Sarah deemed culpable and sentenced to Newgate to await her execution date. But was she guilty. She refuses to say much of anything, claiming not to know what happened. Edmund, a young barrister is charged with uncovering her story, a charge which will uncover many secrets and have a profound effect on his own life.

Darkly atmospheric, richly described, this story based on a real life case, quickly drew me in and kept me turning the pages wanting to uncover the heart of this mystery. Using actual newspaper headlines from the time, court transcripts, the author add a few characters of her own invention to enrich and define this addictive story. The descriptions of the treatment and conditions of Bedlam were appalling. Justice back then was not exactly fitting to the crime, much, much, harsher than today. Our legal system has come a long way, thank goodness.

Reminds me a little of the atmosphere in Burial rites, another book about a convicted murderess.
An debut novel by a very capable author.

ARC from Netgalley.
Release date, February 7th by Sourcebooks Landmark. ( )
  Beamis12 | Feb 6, 2017 |
If Charles Dickens taught us anything, it is that pre-Victorian London was rough. The divide between the haves and the have-nots was huge, and the opportunities for advancement rare. Women in particular suffered as they had no rights and even fewer opportunities. Sarah Gale is just one woman caught up in the hardships of the time. With no money, no husband, and no chance for a respectable job, there was not much she could do to keep a roof over her head and feed her child, yet her desire to do so condemns her in the eyes of society. Ms. Gale’s trial also shows the rampant misogyny that existed back then (and still exists?). The Unseeing is a damning story in that it confirms everything Dickens ever covered in his novels with the addition of being about a true crime. Drawing on actual transcripts and newspaper articles from the time, Ms. Mazzola shows that the misogyny women all around the world still face has been around for a very long time.

The Unseeing is a dark novel; in fact, everything about the story is gloomy. London itself hides under a layer of smog and pollution so thick that it often obscures the sun. The poverty levels of most of the residents of the city are appalling. The graft and corruption among those sworn to uphold the law makes your stomach turn. Then there is Newgate prison, that infamous bastion of depravity, cruelty, and all that was wrong with London society. Much of the novel occurs within its walls, lending its own air of gloom to the proceedings. Edmund faces his own challenges, including the very real threat of debtors’ prison, further compounding the misery. Yet all of this serves the purpose of underscoring just how bleak life was for people then. It is a reminder of how lucky we are in today’s society and how far we have come.

Ms. Mazzola does an excellent job blurring the lines between fact and fiction in her debut novel. Sarah’s story is not a happy one, and Ms. Mazzola does not fictitiously make it one. Instead, she uses her meticulous research to present a plausible scenario for Ms. Gale’s silence and condemnation. The moral dilemmas Edmund faces in his investigation is also timely, in that we are all facing similar dilemmas between speaking out against current injustices and remaining silent for fear of retaliation. Peeling back the layers of history, as Ms. Mazzola does, provides readers with opportunity to learn from past mistakes. The Unseeing is a great opportunity to do so.
  jmchshannon | Feb 1, 2017 |
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The investigation of truth, the art of ascertaning that which is unknown from that which is known, has occupied the attention, and constituted the pleasure as well as the business of the reflecting part of mankind in every civilized age and country. A Practical Treatise on the Law of Evidence, Dr Thomas Starkness, 1833
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Through her left eye she could see nothing now. (Prologue)
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"In 1837, a woman's dismembered body is found scattered across London. Sarah Gale, a seamstress and fallen woman, is sentenced to hang for her alleged role in the murder; although she professes her innocence, she is hiding darkness in her past. Edmund Fleetwood is the young, idealistic lawyer tasked with Sarah's case. The stakes for both are high: Edmund has untold gambling debts he must urgently settle, and Sarah is desperate to escape the gallows. But as the two grow closer, the barriers between confessor and penitent start to blur, and Edward can't be sure if Sarah is a victim or a murderer" --… (more)

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