“A smart and gripping debut that saves its best for last.” —Chris Cleave, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Little Bee
“[A] thoroughly satisfying and suspenseful debut…the final twist in the murder plot will catch many readers unaware, as will the surprising emotional heft of the narrative, which traces the damage wrought by secrets and good intentions gone awry.” —Publishers Weekly
For fans of Louise Penny and Tana French, this “unsettling…compelling” (Glamour) thriller explores the devastating repercussions of a long-ago crime as it delves into forbidden relationships, the emotional bond between mothers and daughters, and the dark consequences of harboring secrets.
It is the summer of 1956, and fifteen-year-old Betty Broadbent has never left the Cornish fishing village of St. Steele or ventured far beyond the walls of the Hotel Eden, the slightly ramshackle boarding house run by her moody, unpredictable mother.
But Betty’s world is upended when a string of brutal murders brings London’s press corps flooding into the village, many of whom find lodging at the Hotel Eden. She is instantly transfixed by one of the reporters, the mysterious and strangely aloof Mr. Gallagher—and he, fully twice her age, seems equally transfixed by her. The unlikely relationship that blooms between Betty and Mr. Gallagher is as overlaid with longing and desire as it is with impropriety and even menace.
And as the shocking death toll rises, both Betty and Mr. Gallagher are forced to make a devastating choice, one that will shape their own lives—and the life of an innocent man—forever. The revelations in Powell’s haunting debut will give you chills, and her unforgettable heroine will break your heart.
This readers group guide for The Unforgotten includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
In a small fishing village in Cornwall, Betty Broadbent helps her mother run the small boarding house Hotel Eden. When a string of brutal murders brings London’s press corps flooding to the hotel, Betty becomes transfixed by one of the reporters, the aloof Mr. Gallagher, a man twice her age who is equally enamored by her. The unlikely friendship that blooms between Betty and Mr. Gallagher is as overlaid with longing and desire as it is with impropriety . . . and even menace. As the death toll rises, both Betty and Mr. Gallagher are forced to make a devastating choice, one that will shape their own lives—and the life of an innocent man—forever.
Topics and Questions for Discussion
1. Describe the attraction between Betty and Gallagher. Why do these characters appeal to each other?
2. How would you describe the relationship between Betty and her mother? What do they each bring to the relationship?
3. Betty, her mother, and Gallagher all possess character flaws. Identify a few of these flaws. How do these flaws hurt them?
4. What role do the characters’ misconceptions play in shaping their decisions and their futures?
5. Why do you think the author chose to unfold the story over the course of two different eras?
6. How does the author build suspense throughout the book? Provide a few specific examples.
7. Do you think Betty’s story would have changed if Gallagher had been at the newspaper office when she arrived? How?
8. Why do Mr. and Mrs. Eden send Betty to Middlebury? Do you think that was the best thing for her?
9. Mary Sugden carries a major secret that is only revealed when she pays a visit to someone from her past. Why does Mary seek him out?
10. Why do you think Mary visits St. Steele?
11. Both Gallagher and Jerry keep secrets to protect the ones they love. Do you think they made the right choices?
12. Did the book end the way you expected?
13. Why do you think the author chose to call the book The Unforgotten?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. St. Steele becomes infamous for its “Cornish Cleaver,” a catchy name that Gallagher uses to entice readers. Do some research to find articles about a real-life town marred by a major criminal case. How did the reporters use colorful language to boost the entertainment value? What facts did they leave out?
2. At the end of the book, the author describes a letter—the contents of which are unknown to us. Have each member of the book club write their own version of the letter and share it with the group.
3. Visit the author’s website at www.laurajaynepowell.com to explore her journalism portfolio. Which of her articles do you find most interesting? Do any of the articles remind you of plot points and themes from The Unforgotten?
Laura Powell is a commissioning editor at TheDaily Telegraph. She has written features and interviews for The Guardian, The Observer, the London Evening Standard, and various women’s magazines. Laura has won several awards, including a Scott Trust Bursary from the Guardian Media Group and a New Writer’s Bursary from Literature Wales. Originally from Wales, she now lives in London. The Unforgotten is her first novel.