The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

THE UNWITTING: A Novel By Ellen Feldman

The Unwitting by Ellen FeldmanPublisher:  Spiegel & Grau
Expected Release Date:  May 6, 2014
Pages:  304
Genre:  Historical Fiction

Book Description:  In CIA parlance, those who knew were “witting.” Everyone else was among the “unwitting.”   
 
On a bright November day in 1963, President Kennedy is shot. That same day, Nell Benjamin receives a phone call with news about her husband, the influential young editor of a literary magazine. As the nation mourns its public loss, Nell has her private grief to reckon with, as well as a revelation about Charlie that turns her understanding of her marriage on its head, along with the world she thought she knew.
 
With the Cold War looming ominously over the lives of American citizens in a battle of the Free World against the Communist powers, the blurry lines between what is true, what is good, and what is right tangle with issues of loyalty and love. As the truths Nell discovers about her beloved husband upend the narrative of her life, she must question her own allegiance: to her career as a journalist, to her country, but most of all to the people she loves.
 
Set in the literary Manhattan of the 1950s, at a journal much like the Paris Review, The Unwitting evokes a bygone era of burgeoning sexual awareness and intrigue and an exuberance of ideas that had the power to change the world. Resonant, illuminating, and utterly absorbing, The Unwitting is about the lies we tell, the secrets we keep, and the power of love in the face of both.

Wanda's Thoughts:  The Unwitting is a story of a complex and turbulent marriage during the Cold War. The storyline is layered with secrets and tangled truths, with themes of love, lies, betrayal, and deception.

This is an interesting period in US history, but I found the book to be disappointing. The historical facts were shallow with poorly constructed characters that lacked depth - I never felt connected to any of them. The storyline felt disjointed, and the plot was confusing at times. It never captured my excitement. I wanted to put this one down, almost from the beginning. 

A few positive comments - 
* Perfect title - Definition of "Unwitting" - not knowing, unaware. The title is certainly fitting for the storyline.
* There were some unexpected twists and turns throughout the book. 
* Satisfying conclusion - perhaps the best part of the book.

Unfortunately, this book was just lukewarm, and not one I would recommend. 2.5 Stars
I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions shared are my own.

Ellen FeldmanAbout the Author:  Ellen Feldman, a 2009 Guggenheim fellow, is the author of Scottsboro, The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank, and Lucy. She writes both fiction and social history, and has published articles on the history of divorce, plastic surgery, Halloween, the Normandie, and many other topics, as well as numerous book reviews. She has also lectured extensively around the country and in Germany and England, and is a sought-after speaker to reading groups both in person and by telephone.
She grew up in northern New Jersey and attended Bryn Mawr College, from which she holds a B.A. and an M.A. in modern history. After further graduate studies in history at Columbia University, she worked for a New York publishing house.
She lives in New York City and East Hampton, New York, with her husband and Cairn terrier named Lucy.