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The Unseen

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  3,203 ratings  ·  356 reviews
“Occult happenings, romantic passion, and murder disrupt the peace of a Berkshire village in 1911 in this hauntingly good novel.”
Marie Claire (UK)

Katherine Webb’s debut novel, The Legacy, was an international bestseller—and her remarkable second effort, The Unseen, is as gripping, thrilling, and unforgettable as her first. In this compelling story of love, deception, obse
Paperback, 464 pages
Published May 22nd 2012 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 2011)
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Jennifer The book plays very heavily on mirroring the historical case of the Cottingley Fairies, at the turn of the 20th century.

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3.71  · 
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 ·  3,203 ratings  ·  356 reviews

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While there is no time slip element to this novel the author has constructed dual narration set a hundred years apart, the contemporary setting in 2011 and the historical in 1911.

In the present day the body of a WWI soldier has been discovered near Ypres, Belgium. Ryan works for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, he contacts Leah who is a freelance writer thinking she might be able to discover the soldier's identity based on the information in two letters that were found with him. The lette
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
This is an absolutely fantastic book. I was completely and utterly hooked from page 1. I literally could not put it down. I was exasperated that I had to keep putting it down so I could eat and sleep.
I won't go into the plot of this magnificent story, as other reviewers have covered it, suffice to say that the story is so interwoven between 1911 and 2011 that you never really know what is going to happen next. You are aware that there is a sense of evil building up but as the story twists and tu
May 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
What is unseen in The Unseen by Katherine Webb ultimately refers to multiple things: spirits/fairies, buried secrets, hidden desires, the truth beneath the lies, all of which add up to a mesmerizing work of fiction with historical bases.

Webb weaves disparate events in early 20th Century England, the suffragette movement, and spiritualism/occultism, to form a constant tension-filled narrative which explodes in one unforgettable and tragic summer. In the back of the book, Webb states that the fir
I gave 5 stars to Katherine Webb’s first book The Legacy, and had high hopes for this new one. I loved the blurb and the first 100 or so pages, which were full of tantalising hints as to the long-lost secret.

But then it lost my interest. The past storyline spent a long time getting nowhere fast, feeling more like padding than plotting. I enjoyed the reveal, which I’ll admit took me by surprise, but by then it was far too little far too late. I normally love dual-timeline books, but that style ju
Dec 28, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2011
What a disappointment this book was! The reviews I read of it were promising as was the blurb on the cover. Glad I borrowed this from the library.

The story is slow, very slow, and boring. The only reason I kept reading was in the vain hope that something would happen. It is one of those books that has two inter-woven stories, one set in the past and one in the present day. I have read a few of these recently and they have been well executed and cleverly done - not this one. To my mind it would h
I think this has to be my book of the year so far. I enejoyed it so much I really didn't want it to end. I loved her debut novel the Legacy too but this just blew me away.

The main characters are extremely well drawn, real and believeable. Hester recently married to mild mannered Albert Canning, vicar of a sleepy canalside village during a long hot summer in 1911.

Cat, come from London to work as a maid in their household, recently released from Holloway prison, struggling with her inner beliefs a
Carolyn Hill
Jul 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Just what is the unseen in this book? Is it the elemental beings - the fairies in the meadow? Is it the hidden past? Or is it the true natures and disguised motives that certain characters are at pains to camouflage? This is an engrossing mystery with a dual time frame set in 2011 and 1911 in an isolated British village. The modern story, which is a much shorter narrative, revolves around identifying the well preserved corpse of a WWI soldier found in Belgium, who had letters sealed in a metal c ...more
Aug 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story starts in 1911 with Hester writing a letter to her sister saying that she’s looking forward to the new maid, Cat, coming and how she will be her ‘project’.

We are then fast forwarded to the present when Leah, a freelance journalist, has been asked to come to Belgium from England to try and discover the identity of a young WWI soldier who has been found buried in a garden. He had two letters on him from a H. Canning which pique her interest.

This is the intriguing beginning to a compellin
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Cat Morley is sent to the country to work as a maid in Vicar Canning’s house. Cat is independent, free spirited, former suffragette is having a difficult time to adjust to her life in the village. She is a shadow of her own self, haunted by the guilt of letting her best friend Tess down. Only when she meets and falls in love with George, she gets her will to live back. Cat and George have great plans for their future and independent life.

However, the arrival of a mysterious guest turns every
Jun 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012-reads
As always, you have to delve deeper into the book, and once you do that, you get bits and pieces to put a whole puzzle together that Ms Webb has made for us. This time we have the past, 1911 and the present 2011. I sure did LOVE the past! Hester was so intriguing. If I was her I would really have a complex. Why wouldn't Bertie sleep with her? What in the hay!

The present wasn't as interesting but I sure did love the way this bit of mystery, thriller and romance came along. At first I really didn
Jun 24, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book completely failed to hold my attention. Given how little I liked Katherine Webb's last book The Legacy, I honestly have no idea what possessed me to read this one. Except that I heard it was better. It wasn't. If anything, it was worse. I didn't find any of the characters to be compelling or sympathetic. The mystery was lame and in some ways not quite resolved in entirety. It lacked details that make the book believable and the historical setting accessible. The present day character w ...more
Diane S ☔
A body of a young man is found in Belgium by the War Graves Commission and a young journalist is called in to help identify him. He has two letters, that have been sealed and are still readable and it is these letters that kept me reading, I really wanted to know what was hidden under the floorboards. So back to 1911 we go, to a rectory with a very naive young woman, a maidservant with a past, a cold remote maybe homosexual preacher and a young man who is a theosophist and see fairies in nature. ...more
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Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Another wonderful tale by Ms. Webb. As always, told in 2 timelines, with a mystery to solve. I actually preferred the older story, that of Hester, the vicar, and Cat. But of course both stories are woven together and the secrets come to light. Really well done.
Sophie Weeks
Jan 31, 2015 rated it did not like it
I wanted, so much, to enjoy this book. I had been eager to read it for some time, and when I found the ebook on sale for an excellent price, I snapped it up.

And then I started reading it. The housekeeper...oh my God, the housekeeper. She is fat. No, you don't get it, she's REALLY FAT. With flesh aprons and jowls and wattles and...I don't even know. Think of a grotesquerie and it is used to describe her. In every scene she is in, her fatness is lovingly, ghoulishly detailed. She's also gossipy, s
Stacey (bookishpursuit)
Oct 10, 2016 rated it really liked it

A new breed of historical fiction, deeper and more well rounded. Katherine Webb explains her inspiration for the novel, in a section in the back of the book, The Story Behind the Unseen, was "the case of the Cottingley Fairies, a set of photographs taken by two young girls in 1917 that seemed to prove the existence of fairies." Webb was fascinated that many respected figures of the time were taken in by the hoax. This piece of history isn't the predominant theme in my mind. Webb's home at
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 0-dl-tb, 2016, x-sbc-read
Random Musings:

• Don’t you just love when you discover a new author whose writing style you very much enjoy? Yay!

• Everything seems historically accurate.

• Everything adds up at the end, even if the mystery is solved a bit too easily. It is all just a little too convenient for my taste.

• Odd… this is the second book I have read in the past few weeks in which a GPS is called a “satnav”. It must be a British thing. I only remark upon it because I had never heard the term before, and now I’m trip
Freda Lightfoot
Apr 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was a strange tale, unexpected in many ways, but held my attention throughout and proved to be a fascinating insight into finding fairies at the bottom of your garden. This was a myth that gripped the nation in the early part of the twentieth century, and is here given a new twist. Cat, the maid, who becomes embroiled in it all, is a complex but fascinating character, with a very independent frame of mind for the time. Webb can always be relied upon to tell a good tale, and this book is no ...more
Actual rating = 3.5 stars
Interesting and engaging book. It read smoothly without being overly wordy and stiff like many historical novels set in the Edwardian era can be. I liked many of the characters but none of them seemed expertly described so I was left with wanting more character development. Other than that and not caring all too much for the main character set in modern times it was a good book. I wouldn't hesitate to pick up another book by the same author and give it a try.
Mar 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As good, if not better, than Katherine's previous book The Legacy
Kami Reeve
Apr 25, 2016 rated it did not like it
I'd not recommend this. I'm really surprised it's been getting good reviews.
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 ...more
Lydia Presley
Jun 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Oh Katherine Webb, what are you doing to me? You take some of the most delicious, fantastic ideas and put them into a story that I cannot resist and then you mix it with the most frustrating, aggravating details. But I can't stop reading and I struggle with myself because I want to give your story five stars, but then there are so many little nagging elements that drag it down for me!

Okay, now that the rant is out of the way, let me tell you what I loved and what I hated about The Unseen.

First o
Jun 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
In Belgium, the body of a first world war soldier is found with in his pocket a tin with a few letters, written by a woman. Leah, a journalist from England, is alerted to the find, and hopes there is an interesting story to be told. The letters suggest some terrible event took place that had to be covered up.
Leah finds the house (in England) where the letters were sent from all those years ago and with help of the current occupant of the house, she finds out about the story behind the letters.

Jennifer Rayment
May 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Good Stuff

Absolutely, positively engrossing - you are hooked from the very first chapter
Author is brilliant at setting the mood and setting of the story - you really feel like you are part of the story
Loved the switching back and forth from 1911 to 2011 - gives it a unique twist
Fabulous well rounded characters both in the past and the present
Lots of suspense, murder and secrets with just a hint of the occult
Cat is a truly fascinating character - full of strength and fire, trying to fight ba
Jun 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This novel takes place in two times: the present day, and in 1911. In the present day, Leah is asked by her ex to help identify a World War One soldier for the War Graves Commission; a soldier who has two letters in his possession. Back in 1911, Cat Morley, a young house maid recently let out of jail for taking part in suffrage demonstrations, joins the rural household of the Reverend Albert Canning, who has recently seen fairies while taking a walk in the countryside, and his wife, Hester. Cat ...more
Colleen Turner
May 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Getting the opportunity to review books for blogs has been wonderful. Some books fall short of my expectations but most are books that I really enjoy and, a select few, becomes books I truly love. The Unseen is one of those books and I am so excited I got the chance to review it for

The Unseen is told in two alternating storylines: one deals with Leah Hickson trying to discover the identity of a 100 year old soldier's body in 2011 and the other deals with the various people
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have to confess at first I was going to ditch this as 'Oh my God its yet another of those flippin' fairies at the bottom of the garden' books which seem to dog me and I can't bare. But this is actually much better than that for it goes beyound that non story and makes it far more profound. The 2 men who search for these elementals do so for far different reasons and just 3 years later end up on the battlefields of WW1. Weaved in is a story of a suffragette maid released from Holloway Prison, b ...more
Cleopatra  Pullen
I loved this book, I read The Legacy and although I enjoyed reading it, The story has not stayed with me the way I think that The Unseen will.

The book starts with a letter Hester Canning, a vicars wife, wrote to her sister in May 1911. The story that follows centres around the hot, sultry summer of 1911 when Cat Morely is a maid at the rectory. The vicar is taken up with a new spiritualist idea and brings a leader of the movement Robin Durrant to stay in his home. Cat's past life in prison haunt
This is a modern twist on the gothic. It is filled with suspense, murder, mystery, family secrets, genealogy, danger, jealousy, and obsession. It is set during the awakening of social, class and votes for women.
A good part of the novel is loosely based on the historical case of the Cottingley fairies, at the turn of 20th century. The faked photos of fairies, taken by two little girls that managed to fool the general public, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

I very much enjoyed the book. My on
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I was born in Kent in 1977 and grew up in rural Hampshire before reading History at Durham University. History remains a passion, and I write character-led mystery dramas, often with historical settings. I love to explore the way past events can reverberate in the present, and I'm fascinated by the vast grey areas in human morality and behaviour.

My debut novel 'The Legacy' was voted viewers' choic
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