cover image The Unsuitable

The Unsuitable

Molly Pohlig. Holt, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-24628-8

Pohlig’s uneven debut fuses romantic comedy and gothic horror in a tale of family trauma. Iseult Wince, an unmarried 28-year-old woman, lives with her cruel father, Edward, and nurturing housekeeper, Mrs. Pennington, in late 1880s England. Iseult, convinced she murdered her mother Beatrice during childbirth, spends her days conversing with the dead woman in her mind. When Beatrice’s voice overwhelms her, Iseult finds relief by stabbing herself with needles and other sharp objects. Edward, meanwhile, determines to rid himself of his lone daughter and hosts a series of dinners with potential suitors. All result in failure until Iseult meets Jacob Vinke, the son of a lawyer, whose skin holds a glint of silver due to treatment for a medical condition. Jacob’s family, recognizing their own damaged goods, decides to take on Iseult as daughter-in-law, and as she and her fiancé near their wedding date, Beatrice crowds Iseult’s head with worry, Edward belittles her, and Mrs. Pennington works overtime to keep her on track to escape her father’s torture. While repetitive chapters with Iseult and Beatrice break the spell of the Victorian ghost story, Pohlig handles the wry set pieces of ill-fated courtship with aplomb, and the novel eventually gains momentum through a bloody series of twists and turns. Pohlig’s antimarriage plot will interest fans of revisionist gothic fiction. [em](Apr.) [/em]