By: M.K. Tod
Format/Source: Paperback courtesy of the author as part of the Unravelled Book Tour
Two wars, two affairs, one marriage.
In October 1935, Edward Jamieson’s memories of war and a passionate love affair resurface when an invitation to a WWI memorial ceremony arrives. Though reluctant to visit the scenes of horror he has spent years trying to forget, Edward succumbs to the unlikely possibility of discovering what happened to Helene Noisette, the woman he once pledged to marry. Travelling through the French countryside with his wife Ann, Edward sees nothing but reminders of war. After a chance encounter with Helene at the dedication ceremony, Edward’s past puts his present life in jeopardy.
When WWII erupts a few years later, Edward is quickly caught up in the world of training espionage agents, while Ann counsels grieving women and copes with the daily threats facing those she loves. And once again, secrets and war threaten the bonds of marriage.
With events unfolding in Canada, France and England, Unravelled is a compelling novel of love, duty and sacrifice set amongst the turmoil of two world wars.
When it comes to historical fiction, I’m always drawn towards novels seemingly set in and around the Second World War. That’s what caught my attention when I first read the premise of this novel. Thank you to France Book Tours for letting me take part in the book tour for this novel. I am also hosting a giveaway at the end of this review for a chance to win an eBook copy of this novel (open internationally!). Contains some spoilers ahead!
This book is part of the Books on France Reading Challenge 2013 that I am participating in.
Unravelled was a fascinating novel with quite an interesting setting and perspective. I really enjoyed the aspects of Edward and Ann’s home life in 1930s/1940s Toronto (again, I haven’t read very many novels set in the city so I always welcome it). It touches on themes of marriage, trust, duty, sacrifice and the effects of the two world wars on families, regardless of where in the world they lived in during this time; no one is spared from these events. I really liked that the reader got bits of what Edward was going through with his PTSD from his experiences during World War One. It’s frustrating and sad and the reader can see why Ann felt so cut-off from Edward during the early half of the novel; the reader can see that Edward is struggling to understand what had happened to him and how to communicate the horror that he had experienced and everything about his life back then.
The novel also gives an interesting look at the push-and-pull, ebb-and-flow of Edward and Ann’s marriage over the years as war, other people and time poses challenges to their marriage. On the one hand I can understand the pull they had towards other people outside of their marriage–Edward to someone from his past (which elicits the whole notion of “the road not taken”) and Ann to someone who was there for her as Edward was off on assignment. It’s complicated, nothing is clear cut. I was initially a little put off by Ann’s affair, probably because it felt like the see-saw tipped over to her side and it was her turn to face the same questions Edward faced in the first half (in short, it felt expected as a plot point? (disregarding the title of the novel ;))). But thinking about it afterwards, it made sense why she was drawn towards someone like Richard; it’s like being married to a CIA operative or something, her spouse married to his job and leaving her out in the cold at times.
However, I felt that the novel as a whole ended rather abruptly. I didn’t feel as convinced at Ann’s resolution to stay with Edward and remain committed to their marriage as well as how she came to that decision at the very end. Unlike Edward’s experience with Helene, Ann seemed to still be going through the separation process from her affair with Richard whereas the reader read and saw Edward coming to terms with his decisions and coming back fully to the marriage. Ann’s side of the story didn’t feel as final or as satisfying.
Nonetheless I enjoyed reading Unravelled, the author clearly put a lot of research into the novel and the setting in which the story takes place. It touches on a lot of interesting issues and all in all a great debut novel from this author. Readers of historical fiction will enjoy this title.
ABOUT M.K. TOD
I have enjoyed a passion for historical novels that began in my early teenage years immersed in the stories of Rosemary Sutcliff, Jean Plaidy and Georgette Heyer. During my twenties, armed with Mathematics and Computer Science degrees, I embarked on a career in technology and consulting continuing to read historical fiction in the tiny snippets of time available to working women with children to raise.
In 2004, I moved to Hong Kong with my husband and no job. To keep busy I decided to research my grandfather’s part in the Great War. What began as an effort to understand my grandparents’ lives blossomed into a full-time occupation as a writer. Beyond my debut novel Unravelled, I have written two other novels with WWI settings. I have an active blog—www.awriterofhistory.com—on all aspects of historical fiction including interviews with a variety of authors and others involved in this genre. Additionally, I am a book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society. I live in Toronto and I’m happily married with two adult children.
Now that you’ve read my review of the novel, here’s the giveaway for a chance to win a eBook copy! Please fill out the following Rafflecopter below to enter; this contest is open internationally. Contest closes on Friday, November 15th at 11:59 PM EST. One (1) winner will be drawn and contacted the following day; you will have 24 hours to claim your prize so please use a valid email address. If you have any questions or if there’s an issue with the Rafflecopter, feel free to comment below or email me.
Many thanks again to France Book Tours for hosting this book and for letting me read this book as part of the tour.