I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Rose Black’s debut novel, The Unforgetting, today. As soon as I read the blurb, I wanted to read this novel, and it ticked so many boxes for me.
Her fate was decided. Her death was foretold. Her past is about to be unforgotten…
1851. When Lily Bell is sold by her father to a ‘Professor of Ghosts’ to settle a bad debt, she dreams of finding fame on the London stage. But Erasmus Salt wants Lily not as an actress, but as his very own ghost – the heart of his elaborate illusion for those desperate for a glimpse of the spirit world…
Obsessed with perfection, Erasmus goes to extreme lengths to ensure his illusion is realistic. When Lily comes across her own obituary in the paper, and then her headstone in the cemetery, she realises that she is trapped, her own parents think she is dead, and that her fate is soon to become even darker…
A spellbinding story of obsession, the lure of fame, and the power of illusion.
Lily Bell is a young woman who dreams of portraying Juliet on stage. When her stepfather sells her in order to settle his own debts, she sees an opportunity to gain some experience on stage – experience that she hopes will launch her acting career. Little does she know that, under Erasmus Salt’s direction – she won’t even appear on stage. Her role will be that of a ghost, and she will appear to the audience only by the smoke and mirrors of Salt’s cunning illusion. With the audience believing Lily to be dead in truth following her obituary and supposed burial, Lily has no freedom at all, and is confined to her rooms and forced to wear a veil if she must venture forth.
Lily is such a fascinating character, and one that I admired from the beginning of the novel despite the initial naivety she displays. She has little experience of the world, but is full of optimism and seems to know what she wants and is not afraid to pursue her dreams. I loved the way in which Black develops Lily’s character over the course of the novel. She becomes increasingly determined and resilient as the novel progresses and as her situation goes from bad to worse. Lily isn’t your typical coming of age protagonist, but I felt that the progression of her character was at you might find in a Bildungsroman. Don’t take this to mean that the novel is targeted at a young adult market though – it most definitely isn’t.
Living with Lily and Erasmus is Erasmus’s sister, Faye. She initially comes across as being servile to her older brother, but it soon became clear that Faye is scared of him. Often referred to as a “spinster” – and isn’t it strange that unmarried men of a certain age don’t also acquire such a derogatory label? – their relationship highlights many of the inequalities between men and women at the time. Faye is entirely dependent upon Erasmus – financially and otherwise – and has little choice but to submit to his whims. As the novel progresses, Faye is forced to confront her own past, and I felt that the “unforgetting” of the title was as applicable to Faye’s character as to Lily’s, as we see her re-examine certain events.
The Unforgetting is a clever novel that uses the Victorian fascination with death, ghosts, and the afterlife to create a wonderfully Gothic novel. It is told in short, sharp chapters, and makes great use of alternating points of view to give great insight into all characters – the good, the bad, and those that are beyond contempt. It’s a wonderfully quick read that I thoroughly enjoyed. Highly recommended.
The Unforgetting was published by Orion on 9 January, and is available in hardback and digital formats. Many thanks to the publisher and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the review copy and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour.
Make sure you check out the other fabulous bloggers taking part in the tour: