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The Unseen [Paperback]

Katherine Webb
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
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Book Description

24 Nov 2011

England, 1911. When a free-spirited young woman arrives in a sleepy Berkshire village to work as a maid in the household of The Reverend and Mrs Canning, she sets in motion a chain of events which changes all their lives. For Cat has a past - a past her new mistress is willing to overlook, but will never understand . . .

This is not all Hester Canning has to cope with. When her husband invites a young man into their home, he brings with him a dangerous obsession...

During the long, oppressive summer, the rectory becomes charged with ambition, love and jealousy - with the most devastating consequences.

Frequently Bought Together

The Unseen + The Legacy + A Half Forgotten Song
Price For All Three: 15.03

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  • The Legacy 5.59
  • A Half Forgotten Song 3.85

Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (24 Nov 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1409117170
  • ISBN-13: 978-1409117179
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

KATHERINE WEBB was born in 1977 and grew up in Hampshire before reading History at Durham University. She has since spent time living in London and Venice, and now lives near Bath, UK. Having worked as a waitress, au pair, personal assistant, bookbinder, housemaid, library assistant and seller of fairy costumes, she is now a full-time writer. Her debut novel, The Legacy, won the popular vote for the TV Book Club Summer Read 2010 and was shortlisted for Best New Writer at the 2010 Galaxy National Book Awards. Her subsequent novels The Unseen, A Half Forgotten Song and The Misbegotten were all Sunday Times Top Ten Bestsellers, and her books have been translated into 26 languages around the world.

Product Description


Occult happenings, romantic passion and murder disrupt the peace of a Berkshire village in 1911 in this hauntingly good novel from the author of THE LEGACY (MARIE CLAIRE)

Really, truly outstanding (CHICKLITREVIEWS BLOG 2011-12-01)

An atmospheric page-turner (Fanny Blake WOMAN & HOME 2012-01-01)

This is an engrossing and totally convincing piece of storytelling, a perfect curl-up-by-the-fire read. (John Koski YOU MAGAZINE 2011-12-11)

'A mixture of the occult, mysterious beings in the water meadows, love, ambition, jealousy - and murder - make this an exciting, engrossing book. (OXFORD TIMES 2011-12-22)

Book Description

From the author of the acclaimed debut THE LEGACY comes a compelling tale of love, deception and illusion.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
88 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a gripping tale, unusual and atmospheric 23 Feb 2011
By L. Bretherton VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I hadn't read "The Legacy", so had no idea what to expect from this book. It is very well-crafted indeed. Set in the long hot summer of 1911, as the country awaits the Coronation of George V, it follows the life of Catherine Morley, who is offered a place as a maidservant in the rectory of a sleepy Berkshire village. But Catherine has a secret past... The other main character is Hester, the vicar's naive young wife, who longs for a family of her own. Her life is disturbed by the arrival of Robin Durrant, a charismatic young man who is researching into possible sightings of 'water spirits' near the village. As the sultry heat continues, the characters' lives intertwine in a strange way... All of this is uncovered in modern times by Leah, a journalist who is researching the discovery of some letters found on the body of a soldier from the First World War...

I thought the book recreated the period very well, and the character of Cat is very well portrayed. I enjoyed the modern chapters too, I would have liked to see a couple of more of these, there seemed to be some very long sections in the narrative which needed a bit of relief.

I think the cover is a bit misleading, as this is not really a book about the supernatural in any form. It is a very enjoyable read, and will keep you occupied for a couple of days, as you try to guess the outcome of that long hot summer....
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Winner 29 Mar 2011
Katherine Webb's second novel is easily as good as her first. I loved it! A page turning plot, vivid characters and a wonderful evocation of the life and times of rural England in 1911. Put a repressed vicar, his naive wife, a handsome opportunist and a suffragette together and what do you get? It is a love story, a murder mystery and a criticism of women's rights or rather lack of them. It is also a story about the relationships and barriers between the classes and the sexes in the time before these began to crumble. Her descriptive prose is brilliant, you can feel the hot humid weather and see the mists rising of the water meadows, as well as smell the sweat of the taverns and sense the horrors in Cat's past. It is, in short, a very good read indeed!
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delectable Dichotomies 3 Mar 2011
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Author Katherine Webb cleverly combines simplicity and complexity within `The Unseen' to present a troubling tale embracing superbly sublime dialogue as the telling takes precedence over the tale. In addition to specific insights of life in 1911, such as the suffragette movement, there is a general enlightening portrayal of the huge gulf between political, social and religious aspects of today and just a few generations ago. The story is divided between the 2 years of 1911 and 2011 as the author skilfully evokes unsavoury elements of life via inequality of the sexes, absence of human rights, hypocrisy of false values etc. This is achieved successfully by capitalizing on dichotomies: freedom and oppression, loyalty and treachery, ignominy and honour, ignorance and enlightenment, integrity and deceit, and love and hatred. In spite of characters perhaps lacking in credibility this results in a remarkably compelling story, and though the plot may be fairly predictable Katherine Webb's narrative prevails throughout as fascinating and captivating.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fairy story... 14 April 2011
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book grew on me: the first half is perhaps a little slow then things begin to move and the story becomes more interesting. You get double or triple portions of everything - sparky heroines, bewitching cads, decent but done down heroes. Webb delivers this through the clever trick of dividing the novel between 1911 and 2011. In 1911, servant girl Cat Moreley has involved herself with the Suffragettes and been sent down to the country in disgrace. In 2011, Leah investigates the identity of a British soldier from the Great War whose body has turned up in Belgium. That identity is the link between the two stories, with the 1911 one forming most of the book. The 1911 story is, in my opinion, done much better, although the modern day strand allows Webb to slip in discoveries and facts not known to the earlier characters - for example through letters - so telling the earlier story from two perspectives.

We know that there will be a murder (this isn't a spoiler, it's on the book jacket) but to begin with Leah isn't aware of that - and nor of course are the 1911 characters. Then Leah finds it out, and the 1911 text begins to assume a more ominous tone - Webb succeeds very well here in building sympathy for her characters (even the unpleasant ones) so that the reader begins to fear for them. In the gripping final 100 pages, the murder happens, then but a big mystery remains - which I shan't say anything about as it would be a real spoiler.

All in all, a fun, engaging book which deftly portrays its heroines both in 1911 (where there are two, really, Cat and Hester, mistress of the house to which she is sent) and in 2011 as independent characters in their own right (especially Cat!) and yet, to varying degrees, subject to a collection of rather unpleasant men.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to see! 1 Dec 2011
By Leah Graham TOP 1000 REVIEWER
The Unseen by Katherine Webb is a novel that wouldn't normally catch my eye; I'm not much of a historical fan, however during this year I've read a couple of books that have a historical aspect to them, that move from the present to the past, and I've found them to be massively enjoyable. I like how the stories merge, how the past and present were so different from each other and it can be somewhat startling to read about the early 1900s and comparing them to just how much it's changed now that we're in the 2000s. So when I received a copy of The Unseen, I thought it sounded fascinating. I haven't read Katherine's debut novel, though I have it on my Kindle, but after reading the really, truly, outstanding The Unseen, I will be reading The Legacy as soon as possible.

The Unseen is set in both 1911 and in 2011. It starts with a letter sent in 1911 from Hester Canning, to her sister, Amelia, before we spool forward in time to 2011 where Leah (weirdest feeling ever, reading a character with your name) Hickson, a freelance journalist is asked by her ex, Ryan, to come out to Belgium because the War Graves Commision has found a dead, unitentifiable soldier. No one knows who the soldier is, but he has two letters on his person, letters that hint of bad things that happened, letters that could perhaps unlock who this man is and what his relation is to the sender of the letter, H Canning. So as Leah sets about figuring out who the solidier is, and as she tries to figure out what that has to do with the Cannings, we go back to 1911 and we learn all about the Cannings, and all about the servant girl, Cat Morley, who came to stay with them for the summer of 1911, where their lives changed forever.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful story full of character and history
The Unseen is a story set around the discovery of a First World War soldier’s body unearthed in modern day Belgium. Read more
Published 5 days ago by J. Potter
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
My first book by this author. It's surprisingly good. I've dropped a star as thought the ending was too quick and though I enjoyed the book thought the ending could have been... Read more
Published 12 days ago by A. Stansfield
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, realistic characters
very enjoyable, a can't put down book! loved the character of black cat. the vicar is believable. I want to read more of her books.
Published 15 days ago by Bookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW - what a great book!
I have never taken the time to write a review but this book deserves a little of my time. It was truly splendid! Read more
Published 1 month ago by Miss S K Dyer
5.0 out of 5 stars Its not about faires !
The people all come to life as does the life of ordinary folk in that era, the evil one gets his reward,, I enjoyed it start to finish.
Published 2 months ago by Epicurus
5.0 out of 5 stars Katherine Webb (The Unseen)
Katherine Webb is a writer that draws you into the story. One has to keep reading. brilliant. Write many more books.
Published 3 months ago by Mrs Lucille Hagues
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read
Enjoyed this book - especially as I am familiar with the Thatcham area in which it is set. I have now purchased another of Katherine Webb's books (The Legacy) which I am looking... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Hilary Osborne
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb
Absolutely stunning novel, written beautifully, full of well rounded characters, with a strong plot that makes it hard to put the book down. Read more
Published 3 months ago by jumpingbean
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book
Strange to start with I was not sre what to expect.
The story is well written, easy to follow..enough to not put the book down
Published 5 months ago by Douny
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much "padding"
Although the basic story is interesting I found, like some other reviewers, that the book as a whole is far too long, at 403 large pages, and that the matter could have been better... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Charlotte
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