An Unravelling is a novel that very much echoes its title. Its characters unravel, come apart, as do their families. But this unravelling is itself echoed in Rahill’s narrative form, the way she chooses to, little by little, unravel her characters to the reader, delving deeper into their histories and relationships. And Rahill’s writing is beautiful–measured and particular, invested especially in details of characters’ sensory awareness:
“All down those years she’s been handling her time like portions she could measure out and weigh–but that’s not the nature of the thing at all. It moves in gushes, washing ove rhere with its great crash and spill before she has a chance to draw breath and look at things and say goodbye to any of it.”
Aside from her sharp but quiet writing, Rahill excels at inhabiting the voices of each of her characters–and “inhabit” is exactly the word to use, here. An Unravelling is a polyphonic novel, replete with idiosyncratic, intergenerational voices, and in Rahill’s hands, those voices speak clearly and distinctively.
These aspects of the novel come together to form an exploration of various intersecting themes, namely motherhood and aging, all from female POVs. The women of An Unravelling are young and old, with and without children, financially secure and insecure. The POVs run the gamut from Molly, who is in her eighties and having to come to terms with the traumas of her past as well as make decisions about the future; to Freya, who is a student and a single mom dependent on her family to keep her and her son afloat whilst also attending university; to Aoife, who is now in her sixties and struggling to accept the fact that she has aged; even to Megan, who is the two year old daughter of Cara, Freya’s older sister and mother of three.
An Unravelling is, like Megan Hunter’s The Harpy, a novel about how domestic spaces are all but safe and comforting. They are spaces that are subject to turmoil, whether small or monumental, spaces on the verge of being unsettled, or else already unsettled. Rahill’s novel was perhaps a little too long for my liking, with too many unresolved plot threads, but still, it is a compelling read with fine characterization that is well worth your time.
Thanks so much to Independent Publishers Group for sending me a copy of this in exchange for an honest review!