|Fly on the Wall Press|
27 October 2023
My thanks to Isabelle at Fly on the Wall Press for my copy of this book
"I had read enough mystery stories to know that girls who went out to meet strangers at night never came to a good end..."
Stirling, 1877. Lillias Gilfillan, a recently orphaned girl of sixteen, falls in love and elopes with a man who sees her as wealthy and naïve: ‘a little boat without its oars’. In a sea of rising debt and deception, Lillias must learn quickly, or drown.
Glasgow, 1894. Clementina knows little mercy living in a home for ‘wayward girls’. With the ‘Jingling Devil’ always lurking in the shadows and a child growing inside her, can she outrun him and save her best friend in the process?
Glasgow, 1919. Mabel is one of the first policewomen in Glasgow, on a mission to find a murderer. In doing so, she finds a web of corruption and now the ‘Jingling Devil’ wants her dead.
‘The Unpicking’ spans three generations of ‘hysterical women’ who take on systemic corruption and injustice, despite all odds.
📖 My Review..
The Unpicking is a story of three parts and there is definitely a sense of the unpicking of lives which have been shaped and altered by the difficult circumstances of their lives. Often quite stark, the individual stories of Lillias, Clementina and Mabel, although bonded by blood, their lives have been very different. Whilst the stories are very self contained there is a definite theme running through the stories which I don't want to spoil as that would be to do the book, and the author a great disservice.
History is recreated well, the latter part of the nineteenth century was very much a period of great social and moral changes however, as we see from Lillias Gilfillan's sad story nothing much changed for women who could still be manipulated and have their lives destroyed by men who were supposed to care for them. Parts of the story made me rail against the injustice of it all and I think that, for me, this is where the strength of the story lies. It brought into sharp focus what it was like to be a vulnerable woman in the late nineteenth century and even as we move forward with Mabel's story into a new century there is still a real sense of abuse, hurt and wrong-doing. The author has recreated time and place with a fine eye for detail and both Stirling and Glasgow, places which feature strongly in the story, are very much part of the narrative.
The Unpicking is a difficult read in places but beautifully done and quite compelling and is a story which stays with you long after the last page is turned. I am delighted to make it my Featured Book of the Month for October.
About the Author
Donna Moore is the author of crime fiction and historical fiction. Her first novel,a Private Eye spoof called Go To Helena Handbasket, won the Lefty Award for most humorous crime fiction novel and her second novel, Old Dogs, was shortlisted for both the Lefty and Last Laugh Awards. Her short stories havebeen published in various anthologies. In her day job she works as an adultliteracy tutor for marginalised and vulnerable women, facilitates creativewriting workshops and has a PhD in creative writing around women’s historyand gender-based violence. She is also co-host of the CrimeFest crime fictionconvention and is a fan of film noir, 1970s punk rock and German Expressionist.