Audra (ouija.reads)'s Reviews > The Unsuitable

The Unsuitable by Molly Pohlig
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it was amazing
bookshelves: women-of-horror, horror, trope-possession

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A grim tale that you can’t look away from yet are afraid to probe too closely, much like a crushed car on the side of the road. Why is it that we cling to the things that scare us? Perhaps mostly because it reminds us that we are still alive, that we are lucky to have survived another day.

In The Unsuitable, Iseult is trying her best to survive too. She is twenty-eight and basically a spinster, since her horrible father can’t seem to marry her off. And why doesn’t anyone feel inclined to ask for her hand? Well, she comes off as quite mad, claiming that her dead mother lives in the scar in her neck.

The story is told from Iseult’s perspective, and she is unusual to say the least. She is constantly at battle with the voice in her head and its demands on her, at times supportive and at others abusive, gaslighting her into thinking or acting certain ways. She attributes the voice to her mother, a woman she never knew. Beyond that, or perhaps because of it, she has many dark thoughts and is constantly self-harming.

I loved the way Iseult conversed with her mother—their unpunctuated dialogue takes some getting used to, but it was wonderfully evocative and carved each of the characters very clearly for me, even though Iseult is really the only tangible character.

The real question of the book though: is Iseult mad or does some piece of her deceased mother truly live inside her? Is this a ghost story or one that exemplifies the crushing weight and expectation that was placed on women in the Victorian age? I like to think it is both, in the same way that it maneuvers between dark satire and true horror.

Pohlig’s writing is immediate, painting each scene with striking clarity, but it is also beautiful enough to savor. I look forward to reading more of her work.

This is a masterful novel, contemplating themes of mental health and the perceived role of women. Iseult is a wonderfully complex character, and I loved getting inside her dark and unstable mind.

My thanks to Henry Holt for my advance copy of this book to read and review.
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Reading Progress

February 3, 2020 – Started Reading
February 3, 2020 – Shelved
February 5, 2020 – Shelved as: women-of-horror
February 5, 2020 – Shelved as: horror
February 17, 2020 – Finished Reading
February 25, 2021 – Shelved as: trope-possession

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