Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

Katharine is a young woman who has been living as a ward of her aunt. She has been penniless since her parents died, so she is completely reliant upon her aunt, and her cousin in the future. Aunt Tulman demands that Katherine travel to the family estate in order to check on her Uncle, the current head of the estate. Rumor has it that he is not of sound mind, and he has been squandering the family money. Katherine's assignment is to have her uncle committed to an assignment, otherwise she will be turned out on the streets.

Her reception at the estate is less than friendly. All of the servants know why she is there, and they don't want to lose their jobs or have poor Uncle Tully sent to an asylum. Katharine puts up with a bit of abuse, but eventually makes an agreement that she will observe the estate and Uncle Tully for a month. Though she will still face the same dilemma, Katherine actually loosens up and starts to enjoy herself. She grows to care for her Uncle, a man who lives by a rigid set of rules and builds wonderful clockwork figures. He would obviously never survive in an asylum. She also learns that the estate employs hundreds of people rescued from dangerous factories. Unfortunately, she still has to think of herself. Her aunt and cousin could still end up seizing the estate and firing everyone, then casting her out.

As soon as she arrives at the estate, Katharine is plagued by strange experiences. She hears phantom laughter in the hallways. She ends up losing consciousness randomly. She sleepwalks and harms herself in her sleep. Katharine soon starts to wonder if maybe she is the one who should be institutionalized.

The Dark Unwinding started out a bit slow for me, but once I got into it I loved it. I've read some very good stories this year, tales of young women in a historical context. I really liked Katharine. It's easy to sympathize with her situation, and to feel just as much excitement with the freedom she is allowed when she arrives at Uncle Tully's. I also love the relationship between Katharine and the servant Lane. The ending comes together almost too perfectly, but I've always been a sucker for a happy ending.

I received my copy of The Dark Unwinding from Netgalley, courtesy of Scholastic Press. It's available for purchase now.

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