⇒“A girl never stops needing her mother.” –The Unsuitable by Molly Pohlig ⇐
**Many thanks to NetGalley, Henry Holt & Co, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Author: Molly Pohlig
(3.72 stars – Goodreads rating)
Genre: Fiction / Historic / Gothic
Publication Date: April 14, 2020, by Henry Holt & Co
Trigger Warnings: cutting, self-harm, suicide, abuse
Pages: 288 (Kindle version)
#TheUnsuitable #Unsuitable #MollyPohlig
Iseult realized that the actual madness would be to live by the rules of the rest of the world.
You’ve read Victorian fiction before (most likely). Many of you may list it as one of your faves and may have instantly thought of books by any of the Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens, or George Eliot. You’re imagining full skirts with petticoats, and dapper gentlemen with calling cards. This is that, and just a wee bit more. Let’s read the blurb…
Iseult Wince is a Victorian woman perilously close to spinsterhood whose distinctly unpleasant father is trying to marry her off. She is awkward, plain, and most pertinently, believes that her mother, who died in childbirth, lives in the scar on her neck.
Iseult’s father parades a host of unsuitable candidates before her, the majority of whom Iseult wastes no time frightening away. When at last her father finds a suitor desperate enough to take Iseult off his hands—a man whose medical treatments have turned his skin silver—a true comedy of errors ensues.
As history’s least conventional courtship progresses into talk of marriage, Iseult’s mother becomes increasingly volatile and uncontrollable, and Iseult is forced to resort to extreme, often violent, measures to keep her in check.
As the day of the wedding nears, Iseult must decide whether (and how) to set the course of her life, with increasing interference from both her mother and father, tipping her ever closer to madness, and to an inevitable, devastating final act.
She wanted to go on unnoticed, unbothered, unperturbed. But her time was up.
Now, you’ve read the blurb and you think that you are ready for anything that Molly Pohlig throws at you, right? You are so, so wrong, my friend.
You are not ready for the oddity of having one of the main characters be a semi-corporeal dead woman, you are not ready for a silver man to appear as one of the more normal characters, you are not ready for the level of confusion and bitterness that exists within Iseult, and you are not even ready to deal with learning to say her name correctly throughout the entire book ( it’s “Ee-soolt”, by the way).
What young man wants a wife who loathes him, and whom he loathes in return?
I have read some odd books in my day. Most of them have been stories that came across through NetGalley or through a free ARC of some sort. Many of them have charmed me and eventually won me over in the end. Others have left me feeling blank, confused, and like I’ve wasted hours of my valuable time. And then there are books like The Unsuitable. It’s difficult to come to grips with a book where so much is happening that falls just left of center. But oh, you want to absorb it all and relate and grasp it all!
Full disclosure: I put the blame on you, but maybe it’s just me who was slightly unprepared. There is no way I would have known that the disembodied voice of someone’s nagging mother wouldn’t read more funny! Instead, it is a dark and not-so-subtle reminder about the importance of mental health and a strong family support system. Iseult had neither.
You do not get to win…you get to live… you do not get to do both.
So this one was difficult to rate, if I’m being honest. It’s a debut novel, so you feel that just a little as you’re reading through; however, it isn’t annoyingly amateur at all. This is a novel with depth and dark humor, an unreliable narrator, and questionable reality. If things like that are your jam, then you are in the best luck of your life, my friend!
Molly Pohlig graduated from James Madison University with a BA in English, and from University College Dublin with an MA in Film Studies. She is the associate editor for Vogue Knitting magazine, and has written humorous pieces and personal essays for Slate, The Toast, Racked, and The Hairpin. -bio from US.Macmillan.com