The Unravelling by Thorne Moore
I was sent a copy of the novel by the publisher, Honno, in return for an honest review. 4.5 stars
Thorne Moore’s first novel A Time for Silence established her as a psychological thriller writer to watch, both inside her adopted homeland, Wales, and beyond. A Welsh Books Council book of the month, her latest, The Unravelling, will cement her reputation further. It is an accomplished piece. Tense, taut and scarily plausible, it is a why dunnit – or a what really happened – rather than a who dunnit.
Principally set over two time frames – contemporary (2001) and the lead’s childhood in the 1960s – we follow Karen Rothwell and her search to discover exactly what happened one fateful day when she was ten years old. A day during which her best friend was allegedly abducted and murdered; an event which set the mould for Karen’s life. From the outset we understand that our lead is troubled, there’s a dissonance between her version of herself and the way those around her behave towards her, though the extent of Karen’s problems are only revealed as she begins the process of unravelling the day’s events and those involved. The narrative bounces between the past and the present, keeping characters and truth in the shadows as much as throwing light on them. Moore’s 60s suburbia is vividly drawn, as are the friendships between the five girls. Simultaneously innocent, knowing, cruel and kind, her observations of the complex, often toxic, relationships between pre-teens are spot-on. Moore also allows her reader more knowledge than her protagonist: almost from the outset I knew who the guilty party was; the pleasure came from watching Karen uncover the truth and in so doing heal all who were involved, to a greater or lesser extent.
The Unravelling is a fine, nuanced, emotionally-complex read; I enjoyed it very much and look forward to Thorne Moore’s next.
Buy the novel HERE.
I’m a writer not a reviewer but I do review books I’ve enjoyed. And so I’ve set up a page on my site dedicated to this pursuit. I’m kicking off with the very marvellous Sandlands.
Rosy Thornton is a highly regarded and experienced novelist. With her latest offering from Sandstone Press, Sandlands, she showcases her mastery of the short form. For Sandlands is an astonishing collection of short stories exploring our intimate connection with our past and the landscape, its wildlife and seasons.
The blurb describes these sixteen tales as delicate and magical, and while I wholeheartedly agree, I’d add that they are poignant, unsettling and often extremely funny. Set in and around one coastal village in Suffolk, characters from one story will reappear in another, and the ghosts of past generations are never too far away. With deceptive simplicity, Rosy Thornton draws her reader into the close-knit world of Blaxhall and its inhabitants – living and dead.
There isn’t space here to wax lyrical about each and every story and the sheer diversity of this collection inevitably means that some will appeal more than others; my favourites won’t necessarily be yours. But this is my review, so I’ll mention those that touched me, and haunted me, the most.
Standouts include The Watcher of Souls, in which a young woman discovers the tragic secret beneath an owl’s nest; The Witch Bottle where a witch’s revenge is wreaked twice over – in the seventeenth century and the present; and The Interregnum which follows the journey of an interim rector whose vigorous interest in paganism upsets the church community. I laughed out loud throughout The Interregnum because Rosy Thornton allows her reader the delicious pleasure of understanding more than the supporting cast. Another favourite of mine is the gothic Curlew Call in which an artist’s companion finds herself alone in a house on the mist-enveloped mudflats. With echoes of Dickens and Susan Hill it is sad, spooky and funny. Before I go, I’ll mention how erudite this collection is. Full of ideas, natural history, folklore and song it offers insight into all manner of new worlds and this is an aspect I relished.
A gem of a book with story hooks as strong as the claws of the owl on the arresting front cover. Brilliant.
Buy a copy here.