[Review] 'The Unseeing' by Anna Mazzola

The Victorian times seem very much en vogue today. Victorian grimes have been perfectly described in 'Beloved Poison' by E.S. Thomson and now Victorian crimes are the subject of 'The Unseeing' by the rather impressive debut of Anna Mazzola.

It is a tale that has its origins in a real life murder story, the so-called Edgeware Road murder of 1837, skillfully intertwined with the results of Mrs. Mazzola's vivid imagination. It is a bleak and unforgiving tale set in 1830s London, when Sarah Gale is sentenced to be hanged for her supposed part in the murder of Hannah Brown, who's body was found mutilated and dismembered.

After Sarah belatedly petitioned the Home Office for mercy, even though at her trial she said nothing in her own defense, junior solicitor Edmund Fleetwood is assigned to investigate the case. Yet, surprisingly, Sarah refuses to help him, even if it may save her from the gallows and it is obvious to Fleetwood that she is holding something back. As the date of her execution draws near, Edmund begins to wonder whether she will tell the truth in time to save herself.
The mostly gruesome atmosphere of Victorian London is conjured beautifully on every page, particularly in the dark and disquieting confines of Newgate Prison.

Yet, somehow the fate of women in Victorian times made me wonder if it all hasn't really changed very much. Even these days women are often victim of verbal and physical abuse by men who think that they might be easy prey.

Would I dare to recommend 'The Unseeing'? Yes, unreservedly. It is a engrossing novel that you should read with a comforting glass of wine at hand. Turn down the lights, curl up on your couch and start reading. I can guarantee it will be a very satisfying read.

'The Unseeing' is largely based on the so-called Edgeware Road murder of 1837, when laundress Hannah Brown was killed, her body dismembered and her head, torso and limbs scattered all over London. Her fiance James Greenacre and his mistress Sarah Gale were arrested and sentenced to hang. Sarah petitioned the Home Office for mercy, even though at her trial she said nothing in her own defense.

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