Tuesday 18 May 2021

Review | A Song Unsung by Fiona Cane

Published on May 27, 2021

It’s rare for me to be able to start and finish a book over the course of 24 hours but with A Song Unsung I had no other choice. I was so engrossed in Martha’s story and Fiona Cane’s beautifully descriptive, scene-setting writing drew me into life in the 1950s and 1970s, with both parts captivating me and having me eager to discover the secrets that were being kept.

The story is told from the perspective of two characters. In Soho in 1958, we meet Martha, a young woman who has left home with little money to her name. She loves to sing but a career from that is just a fantasy. For now, she’s about trying to make enough money to live on. Until a desperate attempt to earn some good pay leads to a chance encounter with someone who may just be able to make her musical dreams come true.

In Sussex in 1976, we meet Natasha. Fourteen years old, she’s bored and lonely. That is, until one Martha Palmer moves into her neighbourhood and casts her spell on Tasha. Obsessed with her fashion, her beauty and her lifestyle, Natasha becomes addicted to the mystery behind Martha, and so did I. The way Martha’s character is depicted throughout both the fifties and seventies is utterly entrancing.

A Song Unsung felt like an ode to jazz music and the jazz scene is brought to life on the pages of this book. From the clubs and the venues to the anxieties, the publicity and the fame, Fiona Cane paints a vivid picture of life on the road for Martha and her band. I loved the author’s evocative style of writing. It was very atmospheric and the culture and jazz soundtrack bursts to life within the pages of this book. Not limited to the music, Fiona Cane draws the reader in to a hot and sticky coffee shop, to awkward teenage first times and to the suspense built through secrets and lies.

I really enjoyed the exploration of both Martha and Natasha’s characters. Though her upbringing was different to Martha’s, there was a resemblance between young Natasha and young Martha that I found fascinating. Whilst I could sympathise with Martha more, and found it easy to root for her despite her flaws, I struggled more with Natasha’s attitude. Her newfound obsession with Martha led to her showing quite a selfish and at times unkind approach towards her mother. There was a side to Tasha that only came about when she was around Martha – a need she had to impress this mysterious woman, a need for excitement that she could only find out of the confines of her own home. Natasha had an impressionable personality and she developed an intriguing fixation on Martha that I found truly compelling.

I loved the mystery at the heart of this novel. A Song Unsung kept me guessing throughout, intrigued by the secrets and hidden truths and always engaged, eagerly piecing together the parts of Martha’s life and what changed in the twenty-year gap from when we first meet her to when we meet her again. There was a lot I didn’t see coming, and I loved the book all the more for it. I would highly recommend A Song Unsung – a must-read this Summer.

Review copy provided by the author - this was my honest review.   

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