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Molly Pohlig's The Unsuitable is a fierce blend of Gothic ghost story and Victorian novel of manners that’s also pitch perfect for our current cultural moment.
Iseult Wince is a Victorian woman perilously close to spinsterhood whose distinctly unpleasant father is trying to marry her off. She is awkward, plain, and most pertinently, believes that her mother, who died in childbirth, lives in the scar on her neck.
Iseult’s father parades a host of unsuitable candidates before her, the majority of whom Iseult wastes no time frightening away. When at last her father finds a suitor desperate enough to take Iseult off his hands—a man whose medical treatments have turned his skin silver—a true comedy of errors ensues.
As history’s least conventional courtship progresses into talk of marriage, Iseult’s mother becomes increasingly volatile and uncontrollable, and Iseult is forced to resort to extreme, often violent, measures to keep her in check.
As the day of the wedding nears, Iseult must decide whether (and how) to set the course of her life, with increasing interference from both her mother and father, tipping her ever closer to madness, and to an inevitable, devastating final act.
“Pohlig’s descriptions of Iseult’s struggles are riveting, and will unnerve anyone who has battled an overbearing mother....The ending, both terrible and inevitable, was hard to stomach, but then again, the best horror is meant to leave you gutted, gasping for breath, straining to flee the dreadful voice echoing in your mind.”
--The New York Times Book Review
"The Unsuitable is a fiercely feminist Gothic novel of manners and body horror, that portrays spinsterhood, self-image, and mental illness in Victorian times in fresh light."
--Book Riot "20 Must-Read Debut Novels of 2020"
"Fiercely feminist. . . .The Unsuitable is a wildly imaginative novel that portrays self-harm in a respectful, comprehensive way, and sets fire to all preconceived notions with regards to spinsterhood, self-image, and mental illness in Victorian times (which can also be applied to present day.)"
--Book Riot "The Best Books We Read Oct-Dec 2019"
"A feminist Gothic tale that's both of its time and utterly timeless."
"[The Unsuitable] presents one of the most idiosyncratic protagonists ever to take up residence in our heads...Pohlig's clever novel will have you on pins and needles to the final sentence."
"A voicey, unsettling ghost story of an unmarriageable Victorian woman and her dead mother’s ghost. This novel of manners is so much darker than you’re expecting."
"Pohlig’s acerbic wit sets it apart. Her sentences hilariously critique power structures, in a way that calls back to the late great Shirley Jackson."
“Bloody and bizarre...a pitch-perfect final scene”
“...series of twists and turns. Pohlig’s anti-marriage plot will interest fans of revisionist gothic fiction.”
“This suspenseful, occasionally darkly humorous, distinctively written novel is equal parts Victorian horror and cry for independence. Those strong enough to handle this visceral content will find an absorbing read.”
“A weird and bloody ghost story combining the terror of mental illness with body horror that, while set in a gothic world, features a sensibility more at home in the 21st century. Similar in appeal to the intense psychological suspense of Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger mixed with the real-life horror of the domestic abuse and self-harm at the heart of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects.”
"Molly Pohlig has written a true stunner with The Unsuitable. A novel that takes the body and upends it, all the while focused on the how our interior worlds are oftentimes prolifically shaped by our parentage. On the sentence level it is both gorgeous and messy; a bloody delight. There isn't another book like it. Pohlig has crafted a wonder."
--Kristen Arnett, NYT bestselling author of Mostly Dead Things
“The Unsuitable is a gruesome, stabby, wincing book about the ways in which women are influenced, hindered, hurt, and taught to hurt themselves. There is a rebellious glee in Iseult's response to the powers that be, and great humor amidst the glittering darkness. This is a comedy of manners marvelously turned upside down.”
--Sharma Shields, author of The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac and The Cassandra
"The Unsuitable is a weird neo-Victorian fever-dream with a prickly, haunted heroine and an ending you won't see coming."
--Maggie Mitchell, author of Pretty Is
"The Unsuitable is vivid, bloody, and above all, wholly singular. It is impossible to not feel for Iseult as she struggles for a glimmer of independence that both the living and dead are hellbent on smudging out. With this debut, Molly Pohlig establishes herself as a startling force."
--Madeline Stevens, author of Devotion