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The Unwitting [Kindle Edition]

Ellen Feldman
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Betrayal comes in many forms . . .



At the height of the Cold War, words are weapons and secrecy reigns. These are challenging times to be a writer and a wife, as Nell Benjamin knows only too well.



One bright November day in 1963, the dazzling young president arrives in Texas and Nell receives a phonecall that overturns the world as she knows it. In the shocking aftermath, whilst America mourns, Nell must come to terms with both a tragedy and a betrayal that shatters every illusion of the man she thought she knew better than anyone else.



Resonant, illuminating and utterly absorbing, The Unwitting is about the lies we tell, the secrets we keep and the power of both truth and love.


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Review

Not only is the writing atmospheric and subtle, it has great psychological tension. A compelling and poignant Cold War novel (Nigel Farndale, author of THE BLASPHEMER)

Ellen Feldman's masterful, unforgettable portrayal of a marriage during the Cold War evokes the era in beautiful but charged prose. The paranoia of the times crackles on the page as secrets are kept and Nell Benjamin, the narrator, is unwittingly caught in moral quandaries of the 1950s. A captivating work of storytelling that will keep you up late at night, The Unwitting is a timely, must-read novel that reminds us the past continues to haunt (Ann Weisgarber, author of THE PROMISE)

The ideal novel for reading in a sunny garden is 50/50 bend of cool, intelligent writing and breakneck pace . . . I shall reveal no more. Deckchair heaven (my highest praise). (Saga)

From the Inside Flap

Betrayal comes in many forms . . .

At the height of the Cold War, words are weapons and secrecy reigns. These are challenging times to be a writer and a wife, as New York journalist Nell Benjamin knows only too well.

One bright November day in 1963, the dazzling young president arrives in Texas and Nell receives a phonecall that overturns the world as she knows it. In the shocking aftermath, whilst America mourns, Nell must come to terms with both a tragedy and a betrayal that shatters every illusion of the man she thought she knew better than anyone else.

Resonant, illuminating and utterly absorbing, The Unwitting is about the lies we tell, the secrets we keep and the power of both truth and love.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 886 KB
  • Print Length: 295 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Main market ed. edition (8 May 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00IXLVUCK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #80,351 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Lincs Reader TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
Set during the Cold War of the 1950s and 60s; The Unwitting is the story of Charlie and Nell Benjamin, both are successful in their respective careers. Charlie is a magazine publisher, and Nell is a writer.

The story opens on the day that President John F Kennedy is assassinated whilst visiting Dallas, this tragic event shocked the world, but for Nell it changed everything. Her world is shattered by the betrayal that she uncovers. She believed in her marriage, in her husband. She thought she knew everything about him, and about their life.

The story skips back to the time when Nell and Charlie met and fell in love. They are both complex characters, a little out of the ordinary, with strong beliefs that keep their relationship vibrant. Along with their numerous friends and associates, they find themselves caught up in the paranoia and moral questions that make up the Cold War. McCarthyism, JFK, protest marches and questionable media reports are examined in detail within the story, the research is impeccable and the attention to detail can be challenging at times, but portrays the tensions of those times perfectly.

The Unwitting appears to be a curious title for a novel, but it soon becomes clear that there are many who were unwitting during these times, and so the title becomes as clever as the rest of the story.

There is a delicacy about Ellen Feldman's writing that is quite intriguing, the focus of the story is politically charged world-changing events, yet the overwhelming feeling is that of the love story, of the personal betrayals and the incredible hurt.

An evocative and compelling read from an author who writes beautifully and creates characters who the reader can believe it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Sue Kichenside TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Graceful, witty, wry, evocative, insightful, truthful - I love the way this woman writes. Two quotes by way of example: "The story of my life with Charlie had gone to press. There would be no more rewrites." And: "Upstairs, in the silence of the empty apartment, my loneliness bumped against the high ceilings like an untethered helium balloon."

This is a story about love and betrayal around the time of the McCarthy era when the Cold War was white hot...when the clash of ideologies irradiated the world like the rumblings of the nuclear holocaust it threatened.

Whilst this is a chapter of US history that perhaps resonates more with an American readership, I found uncomfortable parallels with 'the battle of hearts and minds' that is going on across the globe in these times. Whether Ellen Feldman intended this, of course I do not know. But it gave this story a distinctly unnerving contemporary edge - for this reader, at any rate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By prisrob TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
Unwitting: unaware of the full facts. Oxford Dictionary

In this fifth novel, the author, Ellen Feldman, tells the story of Charlie and Nell Benjamin at the height of the Cold War. He is a publisher of a left wing magazine 'Compass', and she is a writer for magazines. In reality this is a novel about a marriage, and how it works.

Charlie and Nell met at a party. He had noticed her from one of her many protest marches. This was America in the decades after WWII, the supposedly calm period. Charlie works his way up to publisher in the magazine and life is good. A daughter, Abby, is born, trips to many countries all on the auspices of the magazine. And, then, McCarthyism rears it's ugly head. McCarthy is exposed as the real buffoon he is, but it is the aftermath of McCarthyism when the real nastiness begins.

Charlie receives a letter to show up in a 'Security' office, where he is questioned for three days about the people he knows or once knew, his family, his friends, his connections. Charlie thinks this is the FBI, but nothing is really announced. At the end of the three days, he is told he will hear about the conclusion at some time in the future. A month or so later he is told all is clear, he may move on with his life. And, off they go with their living.

November 22, 1963, the day, President Kennedy is shot, is also the day, that leads to Nell learning the truth about her husband. She questions everything about their marriage. Nell is after all, three dimensional in this novel, a very clear personality, no shrinking Violet. Her life has turned upside down, and, now, she has to figure it out.

The author gives us an intimate look at this marriage. We see the marriage from both sides, Nell's and Charlie's.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lies and spies, Cold War and Communism 4 April 2014
By Jood TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
November 22nd 1963, is a day that Nell Benjamin will never forget, and not just because the President of the USA is gunned down. Her world falls apart and everything she knew about her life with Charlie is put into doubt under her intense scrutiny.

This novel is set in the middle decades of the twentieth century, a time of great turmoil, fear and excitement. The Cold War and Communism send shock waves of fear through every American heart; the CIA is everywhere, but for the most part unseen. Nell is a journalist, whilst Charlie publishes a small independent magazine featuring controversial issues of the day. Life is good for them; they have a beautiful daughter, Abby; their writing is successful; they live in a desirable part of New York, but then it's all shattered on that bright November day in 1963. Secrets and lies of the past begin to surface causing Nell to re-evaluate her marriage to Charlie. This is a story about truth and love, but not a "love story"; a story of human nature, intrigue and betrayal.

The characters are well-defined and believable, the plot has unexpected twists and turns, the writing is sublime, sprinkled with wry humour, well-paced, full of tension - an absolute joy to read. Hooked from the first line of the first page, I could not put this book down and was sorry when I finished it. I'm sure when I read it again in a couple of years I will probably find something new in it. A book to make you think long after you've finished it, which for me, is the mark of a really good piece of writing.

This is not a book to be rushed - savour it, enjoy each word.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A political history that needs more airing!
I enjoyed this book. The era Feldman describes is too often seen in a blinkered way. I think there may be those who wonder why there is such a strong emphasis in the book... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Sienna
4.0 out of 5 stars Personal & National Loyalties
The Unwitting is Ellen Feldman's fifth novel and my first introduction to her writing; I'm not usually a great fan of stories with a political backdrop, but this was so well... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Isola
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
didnt even finish it, boring
Published 10 months ago by Carol Tilsley-Baker
5.0 out of 5 stars I can't believe the news today
22 November 1963: Americans are shocked by the news that President John F Kennedy has been assassinated on a visit to Texas. Read more
Published 11 months ago by elkiedee
3.0 out of 5 stars The Unwitting
After enjoying Scottsboro and Next To You, I was keen to read another novel by Ellen Feldman although the subject matter of secrecy during the Cold War didn't appeal as much as her... Read more
Published 12 months ago by K. Wright
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
I was disappointed that there wasn't more resonance with the era but well written.
Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Paranoid times
From the publisher: "At the height of the Cold War, words are weapons and secrecy reigns. These are challenging times to be a writer and a wife, as Nell Benjamin knows only too... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Maria
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, an interesting story in the recent past
This is the second novel by this amazing American writer that I have read and I now want to read everything she has written
Ellen Feldman writes of the recent past as if she... Read more
Published 13 months ago by elsie purdon
4.0 out of 5 stars "In CIA parlance, those who knew were “witting.” Everyone else was...
The "unwitting" of the title of this novel is CIA jargon, referring to people who weren't privy to CIA secrets:

"In CIA parlance, those who knew were... Read more
Published 13 months ago by San Diego surfer
4.0 out of 5 stars ILLUSIONS DEVASTATINGLY SHATTERED
Nell Benjamin narrates, she and husband Charlie champions of truth, in America the independent "Compass" magazine fearlessly exposing life as it really is. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mr. D. L. Rees
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