The Unsuitable, by Molly Pohlig

Trigger warning for self-harm.

Irene Wince never really had a chance at a normal life. Her father loathes her. Injuries she’s had since she was an infant still pain her. Oh, and her mother—who died in a terrible accident after giving birth to Irene—haunts Irene. Irene hears her mother’s voice everywhere she goes…except when she hurts herself. Molly Pohlig’s The Unsuitable is a disturbing portrait of a tormented young woman. This book is one of the most unsettling things I’ve ever read.

The first chapters of The Unsuitable led me to believe that this was a story of a neglected Victorian girl, who just needs a chance to metaphorically spread her wings. Even when Irene and her mother started to have dialogues in Irene’s head, I hoped that The Unsuitable would turn out alright for Irene. Instead, even chapter either reveals more of Irene’s mental disorders or introduces new complications to her life. Her father has been trying to marry her off for years, so that he can get her out of the house. The potential suitors have gotten less and less attractive. Now, even the old, unhealthy, bald men are turning her down. Irene doesn’t mind. She is as unimpressed with them as they are with her.

When her father brings the very last possible suitor, there are glimmers that Mr. Wince has found someone who might actually be a good match for Irene. Jacob is a sweet, understanding man…who happens to be silver. Yep, he’s silver. At this point, I really thought that the book would have a happy ending. At the risk of ruining the novel, Irene’s relationship (for lack of a better word) with her mother grows ever more destructive. The ghost of her mother or her own mental illness push and pull at Irene until she doesn’t know what to do. She goes back and forth between wanting to go her own way and wanting to please her mother.

The Unsuitable took me down a road that I didn’t really want to visit. It kept getting darker and darker. I think I only finished the book because I hoped everything would turn out all right. Instead, I got an unsettling trip inside the mind of a young woman who never had a chance to be normal. Because of that, I’m not sure who I can recommend this to, especially since it contains so much that could trigger people who self-harm.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.

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