Friday 16 May 2014

The Unwitting by Ellen Feldman

In The Unwitting betrayal comes in many forms.
At the height of the Cold War, words are weapons and secrecy reigns. These are challenging times to be a writer and a wife, as Nell Benjamin knows only too well.
One bright November day in 1963, the dazzling young president arrives in Texas and Nell receives a phonecall that overturns the world as she knows it. In the shocking aftermath, whilst America mourns, Nell must come to terms with both a tragedy and a betrayal that shatters every illusion of the man she thought she knew better than anyone else.
Resonant, illuminating and utterly absorbing, The Unwitting is about the lies we tell, the secrets we keep and the power of both truth and love.

The Unwitting by Ellen Feldman was published in the UK on 8 May 2014 by Picador (Pan Macmillan).

Set during the Cold War of the 1950s and 60s; The Unwitting is the story of Charlie and Nell Benjamin, both are successful in their respective careers. Charlie is a magazine publisher, and Nell is a writer.

The story opens on the day that President John F Kennedy is assassinated whilst visiting Dallas, this tragic event shocked the world, but for Nell it changed everything. Her world is shattered by the betrayal that she uncovers. She believed in her marriage, in her husband. She thought she knew everything about him, and about their life.

The story skips back to the time when Nell and Charlie met and fell in love. They are both complex characters, a little out of the ordinary, with strong beliefs that keep their relationship vibrant. Along with their numerous friends and associates, they find themselves caught up in the paranoia and moral questions that make up the Cold War. McCarthyism, JFK, protest marches and questionable media reports are examined in detail within the story, the research is impeccable and the attention to detail can be challenging at times, but portrays the tensions of those times perfectly.

The Unwitting appears to be a curious title for a novel, but it soon becomes clear that there are many who were unwitting during these times, and so the title becomes as clever as the rest of the story.

There is a delicacy about Ellen Feldman's writing that is quite intriguing, the focus of the story is politically charged world-changing events, yet the overwhelming feeling is that of the love story, of the personal betrayals and the incredible hurt.

An evocative and compelling read from an author who writes beautifully and creates characters who the reader can believe it.

My thanks to Francesca from Pan Macmillan who sent my copy for review.

Ellen Feldman, a 2009 Guggenheim Fellow, is the author of The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank, Scottsboro, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, and Next To Love.

She lives in New York City with her husband.

For more information about the author, visit her website

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