Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“I was determined it would never happen to me. I was worth so much more than that.”
Oh my goodness! Such an epic story of love, loss, secrets and absolutely shocking revelations that was impossible to put down! This book was such a pleasant surprise and I’m so glad I gave something out of my comfort zone the chance. I am absolutely delighted to open this blog tour – make sure you check out all these other amazing book blogger’s reviews over the coming week!
Alice is fast approaching her one hundredth birthday and she is dying. Her strange, graphic dreams of ghostly figures trying to pull her into a tunnel of blinding light are becoming more and more vivid and terrifying. Alice knows she only has a short time left and is desperate to unburden herself of the dark secret she has lived with for eighty years.
Jessica is her great granddaughter and a mirror image of a young Alice. They share dreadful luck in the types of men that come into their lives.
Alice shares her terrible secret with Jessica through a set of handwritten notebooks detailing her young life during the late 1930s. Following the death of her invalid mother and her father’s decline, she is forced, at 18, to take control of the farm. On her birthday, she meets Frank, a man with a drink problem and a violent temper. When Frank’s abusive behaviour steps up a level. Alice seeks solace in the company of her smooth, ‘gangster lawyer’ Godfrey, and when Frank finds Alice in the arms of another man, he vows to get his revenge.
Having strong feelings about characters on the very first page of a book is an absolute rarity! They weren’t pleasant feelings either in this case… I started to loathe one of our main characters’ partners as soon as he stared dishing out orders and telling Jess what she could and could not do. The opening to the book gently eases us into the story and introduces some of the significant characters, and this was done incredibly well. We learn a lot about Jess and Calvin’s relationship in very few words which I thought was a clever skill, and things were easy to follow straight away. It was easy to become attached to Jess and she seemed the loveliest girl – it was a shame that she allowed Calvin to treat her as he did. I loved the author’s tone and I just knew this story would be great. An amazing feeling as soon as you start a book! Certain scenes in the opening chapters had me curious right from the off and I was really looking forward to learning more about the characters and their lives.
It isn’t long before we meet Alice, Jess’ almost 100-year-old Nana. The way the author alternates perspectives was done really well and it was always pleasant switching from one character to the next. Alice is just as loveable as Jess – I felt like she had such a quirky, humourous personality which I really loved and it instantly brought her to life. What I loved the most at this stage was how we begin to learn of an old story; an important story that Alice wants to pass onto Jess before she passes away. The author successfully transports the reader back in time to the early 1900’s, and every detail I read made me feel as though I was living in the past! This story forms the basis of what was to come and I loved how the past and present intertwine. I was in awe from just how the author pulled this off and I couldn’t wait for more of it! I began to despise Calvin even more as time went on and I liked how the author created such a vile human being in a short space of time. I just knew he’d cause trouble the further we got into the story…
The story continues to explore Jess and Calvin’s lives and we experience just how horrifying their relationship is behind closed doors. It was shocking reading about how Jess gets treated and how suddenly Calvin reacts when something doesn’t go his way. Alice is good at spotting when things aren’t right and tries to talk Jess into leaving him, which I wholeheartedly agreed with, especially as we learn about him messing around with other women behind Jess’ back! However, I had a good feeling that hearing Alice’s story would encourage her to make some much needed change in her life and that learning more about Nana’s story would bring her hope and courage. The story became so involving and whatever time we were in, the author makes it so easy to imagine yourself in any place at any one time. Some of what Alice experienced in her life was shocking but also insightful. Just hearing of Alice’s eventful life made me want to go and have a good long chat with my own grandmother!
“The dreams are too horrible. Someone’s coming for me, and I don’t want to go with him.”
I felt Alice could have written her very own book with everything she describes in her story! I enjoyed hearing about Frank and exactly how he fitted into her life back then, even though my thoughts on him at the start weren’t great. The creation of this character was really well done, and we can easily see this development through his actions. Speaking of character development, I thought the author had done an absolutely tremendous job with each character we meet in the story, from the main characters, all the way through to the minor ones we only meet a handful of times. Each stick in your memory for different reasons and create a story full of life and detail which really stood out for me. The beginning of the story packed a punch and I enjoyed what we learn so much. I was curious to see how things developed in both Alice’s story and Jess’ present life. Would she be brave enough to erase Calvin from her life for good? Would Jess be able to hear Alice’s full story before she passes?
As we move on in the story, we see just how difficult family life can be, especially back then. Money seemed to be an important factor to her family, and it began to cause all sorts of problems which shocked Jess as they chatted together. The detail the author continues to go into amazed me and I felt so involved with everything going on. It created a nice depth to the story and even though there is a lot to keep track of, I felt like it was easy to follow. We also learn more of Calvin’s other life away from Jess and the more I read about him, the more frustrated I was becoming with his stupidity. I must say that the author has done such a perfect job of making you hate a character so much, but also love the rest of them so much. Their personalities shine through with each chapter and it felt as though you were getting to know real life people – something which must be difficult for an author to pull off!
One thing that really stood out to me throughout the book so far was Jess and Alice’s relationship. The two are not only incredibly alike, but also really close to one another, and Jess is willing to do all she can to make her comfortable in the time she has left. Alice particularly enjoys the company! This was really heartwarming and definitely pulls on those heartstrings at times. I was also enjoying Tania as a character too – she isn’t aware that Calvin has a partner, and she begins to put him in his place which I really admired. Even though what he was doing with Tania was so wrong, I hoped his experience with her would make him think twice about how he acts and how he should be treating other people. As Alice’s story reaches its peak, her health sadly begins to deteriorate, but she’s determined to finish what she started. There are some sad moments, but I was also desperate to hear the rest of her story. Would we get to hear everything she has to say before it’s too late? A great first half and I looked forward to what was next.
Alice is forced to grow up even more in the story she tells Jess as she gains so much more responsibility, as well as having to deal with Frank, who says he wants more recognition. This part of the story was where I saw the most similarities between both Jess and Alice’s lives and I was enjoying how this was playing out. I was surprised how much I loved the scenes of Alice going into labour, not only because I was drawn in by the incredible description that makes you feel as though you’re right there with the characters, but because we also learn of the exact moment where Alice begins to fall in love with Frank. The little things make all the difference and the way he began to act changed how she felt for him. The way this was written impressed me so much, but I still had the feeling that Frank and Calvin would eventually have something more in common the more we learn. Alice’s story consistently drew me in and the amount of times I got lost in the descriptions of her life was incredible – I didn’t want it to end!
“Never let a man think he owns you, because before you know it, he does.”
With more love, loss and family drama, I found it particularly difficult to stop my eyes from tearing up at times! Alice finds she has feelings for a man that isn’t Frank and questions what it is that she truly deserves. I felt that she had a desire to be treated right and that she definitely appreciated some help with her newborn. I was keen to see how her story ended and just how much of this story Jess takes away and applies to her own life. I’d love for her to recognise her worth, break up with her toxic partner Calvin and find someone nice to settle down with. Someone who appreciates her. I had one particular character in mind, and it would be interesting to see if my theory was correct later on! With the ending of the book getting closer and with so much left to discover, I found myself thinking about how the author would end things. Would Alice successfully tell Jess her full story? Which path would Jess choose to follow and would she make her great grandmother proud?
As Alice spends more and more time with Godfrey in her story, it was really enlightening seeing just how much happier she was in his presence. With Frank bidding the farm farewell, Alice seemed in a much better place, even when having to raise their daughter without him. I thought this was for the best! I felt as if I’d known Alice for a lifetime at this part of the book and her joy felt like such a breath of fresh air after the hardships she’d endured. However, learning of a character’s illness and deterioration reminded me of present day Alice, and I once again found myself worrying for how Jess would cope after her great grandmother was gone. I really hoped she’d figure out a way to be happy without her regular visits to see Alice. I really enjoyed reading the remainder of Alice’s life story and I could already see myself reading sequel from this author!
After Alice has one of the best moments of her life to date, Frank becomes even more bitter and repulsive, and I couldn’t wait for him to be out of the picture for good! The more of Alice’s story I read, even towards the end of the book, I kept thinking it would make a great TV drama. The detail and just how many different smaller stories were concealed within Alice’s main life story would really work in a bunch of episodes! We have the jealous father of a baby, the new love interest that could never be and the town gossip that people love. I’d certainly watch it! The story was nicely drawing to a close, but with so much focus on 1938 at this point, there was still a lot to come in the present day story. What would happen next when we caught up with Jess and Alice once more?
Violence from one character and the effects of excessive alcohol consumption terrify Alice which shocked me so close to the ending of the book. I felt this was an interesting route to take and almost felt like a repeat of one of the earlier incidents of the book! This made me realise that Frank would never change his ways, and once again, it had me thinking of the present day, and that Calvin would never change either. Alice gets stronger and more confident, and I believed all her experiences, both good and bad, had led her to this point. The story at this moment really teaches a lot about standing up for yourself, and I felt Alice was the perfect teacher! With the story coming to a close, I was really looking forward to seeing what the outcome for Jess would be. I felt she’d been taught very well over her last few evenings with Alice, even if she didn’t realise it!
“I already knew that I was as good as any other man when it came to strength of character, but now, I felt a sort of mental strength I had never felt before.”
It wasn’t until the final few pages that we read about the biggest secret of all – and what a secret it was! I was absolutely gobsmacked and I had to imagine how I’d react if my great-grandmother had admitted the same thing. In a way, I could empathise with Alice and and I knew her actions were in self defence, but at the same time, I couldn’t believe how things had changed and just how dark things had become! I must congratulate the author for such a grand turn of events and I was even more excited for what was to come from this author. The ending of the story was absolutely fantastic – so emotional, so satisfying and something that I guarantee you’ll be mulling over for hours after reading! Five stars for this book without a doubt and one that I’ll be recommending far and wide!
This story surprised me so much. I usually stay away from anything historical, but the synopsis piqued my interest and I’m so glad I gave it a chance! This book is quite possibly one of the most involving books I’ve read this year, with a sprinkle of unexpected family drama that I couldn’t get enough of! There’s emotion around every corner and the author has created a memorable group of characters who are more like family than just fictional creations. If you love books with a little history, romance and family ties, you’ll love this one!
A huge thank you to the author of this book, T.A. Belshaw and Emma at Damp Pebbles for my copy and my place on the blog tour! You can purchase your own copy of Unspoken on Amazon, available on Kindle and in paperback. Make sure you’re following the author over on Facebook and Twitter for more updates!