Monday, May 19, 2014


Ellen Feldman first came to my attention with her novel Next to Love. I still can recall the lives of the women in that book, and am now left thinking about the characters she created in Unwitting.

This novel takes place in 1963 as the story opens, but Feldman creates a backstory that begins in the late 1940s.  

Nell and Charlie Benjamin are journalists, both still idealistic about their writing and the topics they cover.  Set during the Cold War, they believe in their country and its freedoms, both liberals in their views.

On the same day JFK is assassinated, Charlie is killed in the park, a victim of a mugging.  At least that is what Nell believes.  It is only later, after seeing a segment on 60 Minutes, that Nell hears that Charlie's death was not a random act.  

Feldman's novel is divided into three segments.  The first gives background about Charlie and Nell, their courtship and marriage.  Feldman re-creates the 1950s era, including details about McCarthy-ism, the CIA, and trips to Russia.  
The second portion deals with Nell's grief and her attempt to go on without her husband.  The final portion of this novel allows Nell to find the truth about her husband and somehow reconcile the Charlie she knew with what she now knows about him and their life together.

The Unwitting is a novel I will remember for a long time- Nell's own unwitting-ness in her relationship with her husband shows how complex people and their relationships are.

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