Welcome to The Unseeing blog tour!
Today I am pleased to welcome Anna Mazzola to Have Books to share the character profile of Edmund from The Unseeing
About the book
Published: 14th July 2016 (Tinder Press)
It is 1837 and the city streets teem with life, atmosphere and the stench of London. Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother, has been sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of her wedding.
Edmund Fleetwood, an idealistic lawyer, is appointed to investigate Sarah’s petition for mercy and consider whether justice has been done. Struggling with his own demons, he is determined to seek out the truth, yet Sarah refuses to help him. Edmund knows she’s hiding something, but needs to discover just why she’s maintaining her silence. For how can it be that someone with a child would go willingly to their own death?
THE UNSEEING is a vividly written novel of human frailty, fear and manipulation, and of the terrible consequences of jealousy and misunderstanding.
Character profile – Edmund Fleetwood
Place of residence: His chambers on Inner Temple Lane, where he rents rooms with his wife and son on the second floor of a grimy, once-white building.
Hair: Chestnut brown. Sometimes sticks up in tufts.
Eyes: Bluish-grey with a circle of darker blue around the iris.
Education: Partly home-educated by his barrister father who dragged Edmund and his brother to various terrifying locations – deathbeds, hospitals, poorhouses and prisons – to teach them the importance of seeking salvation. Then Harrow, where Edmund discovered that there were parts of him that could still be hurt.
Background: An unhappy childhood with his domineering father and cowed mother, who was forced to leave the house when Edmund was thirteen. After his ambitions to be a journalist were thwarted, he studied for the Bar and is now trying to establish his own practice as a criminal barrister. He believes that the Sarah Gale case may help him make his name.
Loves: His wife, Bessie – a beautiful and clever woman whom he feels he has failed. Their son, Clem. Justice, brandy, and – increasingly – Sarah Gale.
Hates: His father. James Greenacre. Pettiness, injustice and corruption. Rum. Rump steak in oyster sauce.
Greatest hope: That his practice will succeed so that he and Bessie might move out of the Inner Temple, and travel together to Europe.
Greatest fear: That he will fail, as a barrister and as a husband. And that he is, ultimately, like his father, whom he hates and fears.
Quote: ‘A woman’s life is in my hands. You expect me to remain unmoved?’
Historical fiction is not normally my genre of choice but the premise of this book, the fact that it centres about the life and conviction of a real woman, intrigued me. The Unseeing is set in Victorian Britain and opens with the imprisonment of Sarah Gale who has been sentenced to hang for covering up the murder of Hannah Brown. Hannah was the partner of James Greenacre, whom was Sarah’s lover up until he asked her to leave his home to make way for Hannah. James has been sentenced for the murder of Hannah and is also on borrowed time until he is hanged.
Sarah is petitioning for mercy, despite having not said much during their trial to defend herself, or conversely to incriminate James, and the Home Secretary assigns the review of the conviction to Edmund – an upcoming lawyer who is trying to make a name for himself rather than living in his father’s shadow.
However, in order to progress with looking into the facts of the investigation and help Sarah, Edmund first has to get her to talk about that night, something that she is not forthcoming with. Mazzola wonderfully weaves the tension, bringing to life the inner turmoil that Sarah is having – wanting to be free to see her child grow up versus conquering her demons that are keeping her from speaking.
Sarah and Edmund form an unusual friendship, one of which goes a little bit too far for Edmund when he realises that he is falling for the mysterious Sarah and distancing himself from his wife, Bessie.
The Unseeing is truly outstanding debut novel, the narrative is well written and flows between perspectives, bringing together the story as to what happened on that fateful night when Hannah died and her body parts spread across London in the most undignified manner. I particularly liked the snippets at the start of each chapter from newspaper articles of the murder and trial as well as quotes from books from that period, this helped with the authenticity of the conviction.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to more from Mazzola, the realness of the Victorian period and the difficult time that Sarah is experiencing comes through in the authentic language, the descriptions of Victorian London and Newgate Prison as well as the convincing presentation of the evidence.
A fantastic combination of real life and fiction, of history and crime.
Thank you to the publisher, Tinder Press, and the author for my ARC of The Unseeing
About the author
Anna Mazzola is a writer of historical crime fiction. Her debut novel, The Unseeing, will be published on 14 July 2016 (February 2017 in the US).
The Unseeing is based on the life of a real woman called Sarah Gale who was convicted of aiding a murder in London in 1837. The novel has already won several competitions and Anna came runner up in the 2014 Grazia First Chapter competition judged by Sarah Waters.
Anna has also written and published several short stories. She is currently working on a second historical crime novel about a collector of folklore and fairy tales on the Isle of Skye in 1857.
Anna studied English at Pembroke College, Oxford, before becoming a criminal justice solicitor. She began writing after taking a creative writing course with Literary Kitchen and later attended the Novel Studio at City University.
She lives in Camberwell, South London, with two small children, two cats, one husband and a lot of books.