The Unforgotten – Laura Powell

“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Betty kisses Mother’s forehead but her insides prickle. The only days Mother talks this fast and wakes this early are the days before a crash; before her mood springs high and crumbles leaving her in bed for days, weeks sometimes, until she can pull herself upright.

Betty clears an empty gin bottle and lipsticked tumbler from the floor. She is wondering whether to ask Mother about them when a cough cuts in. She whips around. Gallagher is standing in the kitchen door staring at her.

B7I6geQCYAEN2IcIt’s 1956 and, while other fifteen-year-old girls are busy courting boys and thinking about the latest dance, Betty Broadbent helps her mother run the Hotel Eden, a simple bed and breakfast on the Cornish coast. Each morning she awakes, sometimes to the sounds of her mother singing in the kitchen, other times, groggy and sleep-deprived, to ensure the hotel guest get their breakfast, and clear the remnants of her mother’s late-night drinking binges.

Betty’s life has never been simple and it becomes even more complicated when a string of brutal murders in her hometown bring London’s press flooding to the scene. The Hotel Eden is overrun by leering reporters looking to cosy up to Betty’s flirtatious mother, or, at a pinch, Betty herself. In the chaos Betty finds herself transfixed by the one quiet individual – the mysterious Mr Gallagher.

As her mother’s moods become more and more erratic, Betty turns to Mr Gallagher for escape. An unlikely friendship blossoms between the pair, and Betty find herself living for the brief moments she spends with the man more than twice her age. But when Betty becomes accidentally entangled with the murders there is more than an age gap to complicate things, and she is forced to make an unbearable decision which will affect her life for years to come.

The first thing that drew me towards the book was not the subject matter, truth be told I had no idea what The Unforgotten was about until I started to read it, it was the stunning cover design. Simple, yet elegant, and deliciously mysterious, the cover is beautiful to look at, and alludes subtly to the content of the book. I loved the cover, so I read the book, and I loved that too.

The Unforgotten takes the classic murder mystery novel and gives it a contemporary makeover. There are certain things one automatically expects from such a book, to be tricked, led astray, captivated and surprised, Powell delivers on all these points. But it is her exploration of the ripples created by the murders which give the novel its contemporary twist. It is Betty who takes the centre stage – her mother, Mr Gallagher, the murder victims and the ‘Cornish Cleaver ‘all assume a side role.

Betty’s story is tragic, and her undying commitment to her, obviously bipolar, mother is evidence of the unbreakable, and sometimes devastating, bond between mother and child. Betty clings to the happy moments when her mum is on a high, the nights when she would make her cinnamon on toast. When things get difficult it is this memory she clings to, like curling up in the foetal position, revisiting happier times. At the same time she has a desperate desire to run away, to escape from the bad times when her mother crashes and burn, and the devastating reality is that her escape becomes the thing that traps her.

I was completely drawn in to Betty’s story, and within this, the hunt for the identity of the Cornish Cleaver. I know some people do not like when a book is split between two time periods, but I personally love it. It is wonderful to explore the far-reaching consequences of a storyline, and passing between the present day and the 1950s helps to tease Betty’s story out, allowing her true character to emerge. While there is not much in the way of physical description when it comes to Betty, her mannerisms, thoughts, and the way she interacts with those around her lead her to be an incredibly well-rounded and complex character, outwardly appealing, charming and so perfectly innocent.

The Unforgotten really spoke to me; but it is hard to say how this book will go down with other people. The storyline ventures into brave and hard-hitting territory which some people could find difficult to read about, exploring mental illness, unrequited love, death and destruction. Laura Powell, with her unique style and intricately-developed characters, is certainly an exciting new voice on the contemporary literature scene.

The Lost Art of Sinking by Naomi Booth – Book review and giveaway!

“The floor scooped me up where I stood, and I blinked as it hit me― M. Beth Bloom


Have you ever played the Fainting Game?

The girls of class 2B have a new obsession – perhaps you know it as the Dying Game, or maybe Indian Headrush? The rules are all the same.

We had all agreed. We would secretly play the Fainting Game every day in assembly the following week. The winner would be the girl who passed out the most times. Or, in the case of a tie, whoever passed out in the most dramatic way. If anyone died, they scored an automatic win. If more than one person died, the winner was the girl who died in the coolest way.

When the decision-makers of class 2B decided it was time to play the Fainting Game, it was nothing more than that – a game. It was just silly ritual among adolescent girls, to annoy their teachers and try and get a bit of a buzz, something to quickly go through and leave behind.

They all grew out of it… or rather… they almost all grew out of it.

In her debut novel Naomi Booth explores the art of losing yourself, and the effects of taking obsession a little too far. The Lost Art of Sinking is a beautiful, yet unusual novella, as artfully striking as it is subtly unsettling. Prepare to be blown away, swept into the depths of obsession and addiction, a journey which begins, and ends in a mysterious room.

Esther cannot stop thinking about the game, a self-proclaimed ‘non-swooner’ she has never managed to successfully lose consciousness. She obsesses over what it would be like, the experience, to find out what she was missing. She wants to see the visions the girls in her class have boasted about. To see the strange and beautiful shapes, like ghosts, familiar, yet alien, which will your body to let go.

I thought it sounded like the most wonderful thing and I hoarded that possibility inside myself.

While all her friends move on, passing likes ghosts from her peripheral vision, Esther continues to experiment with different ways to pass out.

Her fascination is rooted in the memory of her late mother the beautiful retired dancer, who lived her final years locked away in her studio, like a butterfly with a broken wing. In her despair, Esther’s mother never stopped attempting the perfect swoon – curving, trembling, sinking and rising.

Utterly resolved to her fate Esther holds her breath, wills herself to fall and when that fails she snorts cleaning products. Later, unable to rid herself of her obsession she loses herself in the sights and sounds of London. Through the endless streets and houses she can feel her mother calling to her, saturating her body and mind, tilting her head, arching her back, begging her to let go.

Esther’s fascination with falling is so all encompassing that she neglects all other aspects of her life. She has no plan, drifting from one place to another, seeing where the wind takes her, always searching.  Her obsession blinds her, so much so that she misses a glaring secret hidden in her past – one which, if left untold, could be her undoing.

In Esther, Booth has created a strange and wonderful character. Her persona is mystifying yet utterly two-dimensional – defined only by her actions and her obsession. As a reader you are given access to her inner thoughts, but these centre only on her desire to sink away, to become one with her mother. Her relationships feel hollow; her fleeting encounters with men no more than another attempt to reach her goal. Each time she is with someone they are with her body only, her mind is somewhere else entirely.

While Esther herself is a bit of a mystery, those around her are artfully sketched. She outlines all those she encounters, pouring their descriptions onto the page, from an unpleasant-smelling gentleman on the tube, whose odour emanates from his body in ‘mustardy waves’ to the odd young man that is her father.

Through Esther’s obsession, Booth takes the reader on a beautiful and haunting journey – which is all at once unsettling, dark and strangely hilarious. The Lost Art of Sinking is exquisitely written, evoking, sensual and all encompassing – once I started to read I didn’t stop. I was blown away by the writing, absorbed by the ride and fascinated by Esther’s mind. This is definitely one for those of you looking for something fresh and new – Naomi Booth is not to be overlooked.

The Lost Art of Sinking will be released 1st June 2015 by Penned in the Margins.

I was given a free review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.


I have been given a copy of The Lost Art of Sinking by the publisher to give away to one lucky reader.

To be in with a chance of winning all you have to do is comment on this post. Be sure to enter your correct email address when posting so I can get in touch if you win. The giveaway will run until Friday 12th June – giving you plenty of time to enter.

Good luck!