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89 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a gripping tale, unusual and atmospheric
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...
Published on 23 Feb 2011 by L. Bretherton

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fairy story...
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...
Published on 14 April 2011 by D. Harris


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89 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 "dempie" (Tiverton, Devon) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Unseen (Paperback)
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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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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Winner, 29 Mar 2011
This review is from: The Unseen (Paperback)
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
By 
D. Elliott (Ulverston, Cumbria) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Unseen (Paperback)
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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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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!, 12 April 2011
By 
Nicola "nicola_in_southyorks" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Unseen (Paperback)
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I had previously read The Legacy by Katherine Webb and whilst I enjoyed it, I felt it was missing something. However, The Unseen definitely makes up for it, and then some. I thought it was an absolutely riveting read from start to finish.

It's the story of the vicar and his wife, Albert and Hester Canning, their new maid Cat Morley, and their new house guest, Robin Durrant. I loved Cat, she's such a strong-minded character, involved with the suffragette movement and so striking a blow for women everywhere. Her exchanges with the hugely overweight housekeeper, Mrs Bell, never failed to make me smile. Albert and Hester are newlyweds and very young, and Albert finds himself totally in thrall to Robin, a theosophist looking for elemental beings in the water meadows. The effect this young man has on the household is catastrophic.

The author manages to portray the stiflingly hot summer very well, and uses beautiful prose to describe the surroundings in the small village of Thatcham in Berkshire. I really had a strong sense of the area and how oppressed the characters felt.

There is a dual time narrative story, even though it's not mentioned in the synopsis. The main part of the story is set in 1911, but 100 years later in 2011 there is the story of Leah Hickson, a freelance journalist who is trying to find out the identity of a WWI solider.

This is an outstanding read. Towards the end every chapter appeared to be left on a cliffhanger, leaving me desperate to get back to it, and I felt quite moved by the end of it all. It's not a thriller (despite the murder), but it certainly thrilled me.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fairy story..., 14 April 2011
By 
D. Harris (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Unseen (Paperback)
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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. Here, honours for caddishness are split evenly between the vicar, Albert, Hester's husband who spends his time searching for fairies in the fields (really), Robin, a charlatan (but charismatic) investigator of the occult, and (in 2011) Ryan who I will say nothing about at all (another spoiler).

As to why I have "only" given it three stars, perhaps that is slightly harsh, but I'm trying to reserve four or five for books that gripped me from start to finish and as I say above, I found it a bit slow at first - but would nevertheless recommend it overall.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to see!, 1 Dec 2011
By 
Leah Graham (Tenerife) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Unseen (Paperback)
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.

I'd say that three-quarters of the novel is set in 1911, with interruptions back to the present only to see how Leah is getting on with the investigation. I found the jump back to the present day to be unobtrusive and I thought it really added to the enjoyment of the novel, that it wasn't simply a novel set in 1911 about a summer where things went haywire, but that there was an actual reason for us to be reading about that particular summer. I found the story of the Cannings and of Cat Morley to be massively intriguing. I wasn't sure at first, but I soon found myself absorbed in the fact that Cat Morley wasn't like many servants, that she wanted to make a difference and be her own person, rather than just a servant. It both intrigues me and makes me sad to know how life was just a mere 100 years ago. I mean, that's not REALLY that long, in the grand scheme of things and yet to read about how women were treated makes me sad, but it also makes me thankful. After all, it's because of women like Cat who mean that I have freedom as a woman today. Cat was so, so fascinating and I liked how bold she was.

The Cannings are also interesting. Reverend Canning is obsessed with Theosophy (you'll have to read the novel/Google it because I still don't really understand what it is) and when he invites Robin Durant, himself a theosophist, into their home, it changes not only the Cannings lives, but Cat's, too. From what I understand of theosophy, from what happens in the novel, I don't really give much truck to it, and I thought it would hamper my enjoyment of the novel, but it actually didn't. Instead of overthinking the beliefs of Reverend Canning and Robin Durant, I just allowed them to believe that what they thought was true, and instead I just enjoyed the novel for what it was. Which was an absorbing novel that had a lot of different threads to it. (And if you think I've talked a lot about the plot, believe me, there's much more to the novel than I've written about; these are merely just snippets and aren't spoilers at all.) There's so much going on with the book and as it all got to its conclusion, I found myself reading faster and faster and getting more excited to finally find out the truth of it all!

The Unseen was just a really, brilliant read. I just enjoyed it so, so much. The writing is excellent; Katherine Webb is brilliant at weaving a story and the addition of the 2011 aspect was just perfect for the novel, giving it a balance and a purpose and making us eager to learn more about what happened in 1911 as Leah unravels it, too. I found myself hooked and I couldn't help rooting for Cat throughout the novel, she really managed to capture me. The whole novel was just superb. I was kept on tenterhooks from start to finish and the ending did not disappoint. It was just one of those books where everything was great; the beginning, the middle, the end, all excellent. Sure the whole theosophy thing was mildly confusing (to say the least) but I was able to get enough from it to be aware of what I was reading so it wasn't so bad. I hugely recommend this book and I look forward to going back and reading Webb's first novel, because if it's half as good as The Unseen, then it, too, will be a triumph.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly absorbing, 22 May 2011
This review is from: The Unseen (Paperback)
Very challenging for me to believe that Katherine's second novel would be one I would love as much as The Legacy. By the end of the second read, I actually prefer it - just!
Other reviews on this site have captured how the characters are each so well drawn as individuals in amongst the sultry atmosphere of the summer of 1911. What struck me only after I'd finished was just how much I genuinely cared about what happened to them all (both from past and present). Taken very swiftly and skillfully into their worlds I was honestly bereft to leave them - hence the second read. The plot has a complexity that is so effortlessly woven through the narrative that it feels refreshingly unconscious and in no way forced. A reflection of the real intelligence, skill and almost a modesty on the part of the author.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A WONDERFUL SUMMER READ..., 17 May 2011
This review is from: The Unseen (Paperback)
Having read The Legacy by Katherine Webb I was really looking forward to The Unseen - and I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I enjoyed The Unseen even more.

Katherine has a tremendous gift for describing characters and place - the intimate aspects of family life fully placed within the wider historical events of the times. I particularly loved the scenes where the marriage of a vicar and his wife, which seems to be idyllic at first, is soon suspected of being under strain - a strain which will begin to show when a new maid is brought into the house. Her appearance is followed by a charismatic young man who claims to be a theosophist - believing in the existence of fairies and taking their photographs for proof. The vicar is entirely won over and is soon neglecting his parish duties - and so the unravelling begins, culminating in a shocking and tragic denouement after which some lives will go on as before and others will be forever changed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At least as good as The Legacy, 14 Mar 2011
By 
BookBliss (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Unseen (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Katherine Webb's previous book The Lagacy won the tv book club summer read for 2010, I'd loved this book and so as soon as I found out there was a new novel available from Webb I was eager to read it. For many authors the second book doesn't live up to the expectations set by the first, this was not the case with The Unseen, in fact I quite possibly enjoyed it even more than the first book. Although in a dual time frame the majority of the action takes place on 1911, with only the occassional chapter set in 2011, I would have preferred there to have been more emphasis on the current time frame but I was completely absorbed by the action in 1911 that I didn't feel I'd really missed out. The story centres around Catherine Morley (known to all as Cat) who has been sent to work for the Vicar Albert Canning and his wife Hester. I thought the characters in the novel were very well drawn out, particularly Cat and Hettie, who I grew to like immensely and who I could really feel for. Although with my modern mind I found it difficult to believe that anyone would be taken in by the presence of elementals I tried to remember that this is set shortly before the photographs of the Cottingley fairies were published and so the vicar's belief was indeed possible.

If you read and enjoyed The Legacy then I don't think you'll be disappointed in this book
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CHILLINGLY BRILLIANT, 18 April 2011
By 
Mrs. C. Swarfield - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Unseen (Paperback)
This is a brilliant novel that l picked up on the spur of the moment and l am so glad l did. l read it in a couple of days and even though in parts it is gruesome with depictions of what the suffragettes went through during their incarcaration in Holloway it is a wonderful read with a cruel twist that is impossible to predict. I recomend it to everyone with an interest in the spiritual and Katherine Webb is terrific storyteller and l am now going to read The Legacy. I cannot rate this book highly enough - terrific...
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The Unseen
The Unseen by Katherine Webb (Paperback - 24 Nov 2011)
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