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Review: The Forgotten

The Forgotten audiobook cover. A woman in medieval dress clasps her hands in front of her, while a hooded figure looks on from behind.
The Forgotten by Irina Shapiro.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Duration: 11 hrs 18 mins.

The Forgotten, Echoes from the Past, Book 2 by Irina Shapiro is a historical romance which spans the centuries between Medieval England and the present day. Archaeologist, Dr Quinn Allenby, is a historian with a remarkable gift; she not only studies history, she can see it come alive in visions of the past when she holds personal objects belonging to the dead. As Quinn grapples with the secrets of her own history and the demands of her swiftly-changing relationship with Gabe, she becomes drawn into the story of a young woman and child who were discovered buried face-down in unconsecrated ground.

Content Warning: the protagonist was conceived during a rape and the events, perpetrators, and consequences are repeatedly referenced throughout the book.

Having enjoyed the first book in this series, The Lovers, which I reviewed earlier this year I was looking forward to catching up with Quinn and Gabe in book two. It was interesting to see their relationship grow, especially given the momentous changes that were unsuspectingly thrust upon them fairly early-on; in both their relationship and the story. I thought this complication (for want of a better spoiler-free term) was fairly obvious from the moment Gabe received the phonecalls, and felt the same way about the other surprise later on in the book. It was hard to believe that Quinn had not been more proactive with regards to the second bombshell, especially considering the issues she was experiencing with Sylvia. Both surprises were a little too convenient, and not terribly consistent given how responsible and conscientious the characters generally purport to be. These developments each felt a little forced at first, but ultimately served to cement the newly affianced couple as a family by the end.

I found Gabe's vulnerability during his conversation with his mother very commendable. It was lovely to glimpse their relationship in more detail, and his sensitivity was shown to be a strength and not a weakness. Such representation is so important, and it was very sweetly done without being over the top.

Conversely, I really disliked another conversation which took place in this audiobook. I cannot expand on the context without spoilers, but was not at all comfortable with the irresponsible and unhelpful comments suggesting that women making false rape accusations are currently the biggest threat to young men. The author could have mentioned drugs, gangs, mental health struggles, or getting a girl pregnant as the life-changing and potentially devastating perils awaiting the nation's sons, but instead chose to focus on something which already receives an inordinate amount of media coverage compared to the actual incidence of such allegations. False accusations comprise a tiny fraction of rape cases, and conviction rates for rape are still very low even with ample evidence of foul play. It could have been included for balance because of the other references to rape and sexual assault of female victims, but the very notion that false allegations warrant equal representation is an uncomfortable idea. It would have been better to leave it out entirely and would have had no impact on the story.

I felt similarly about an odd, equally unnecessary conversation between Quinn and her best friend, whose vintage clothing boutique was struggling. Their discussion about how "women want to blend in, not stand out" and all be clones of Kate Middleton felt very out of place. Quinn and Jenny are my age, but I cannot imagine having a similar conversation with any of my peers. It was another superfluous moment which I wish the author had omitted.

As much as I disliked those minor elements of this audiobook, the good far outweighed the bad. The historical flashbacks seemed fairly well researched and painted an evocative picture of medieval life. Despite knowing from the earliest moments of the book that Petra and Edwin would meet a difficult fate, I still found myself wishing for a happier end. It was impossible not to be drawn into their heartbreak, but the hardships they endured were lightened because of the way Shapiro wove Quinn's contemporary experiences with Petra's.

The historical language was not always faithful to the period, (with a priest using the phrase "I hope we might do it again sometime" sounding more like a line from a Rom Com than the Middle Ages). But it maintained the required formality for the most-part, and was interspersed with enough period references to enhance the sense of time and place. A few of these linguistic licences were also present in Quinn's interaction with the world, as a few Americanisms crept in (such as putting her foot "on the gas pedal" not the accelerator, and calling madeleines "biscuits" instead of cakes which, if it caught on, could strain European relations more than Brexit). None of this was too distracting, though, and was generally a convincing and accessible look back into the past.

The narrator, Wendy Wolfson, once again delivered an entertaining performance. I still find Quinn's sing-song voice a little weak and wishy-washy but am beginning to notice it less as I get to know Quinn better. Wolfson coped very well with the challenge of portraying a child's voice, helping endear the listener to four-year-old Emma.

I am looking forward to seeing where Quinn's search for answers takes her next, and how the repercussions affect her nascent, fragile, family.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical mysteries with a supernatural twist, though I would urge listeners to start with Book 1, The Lovers , as it plays a very important part in setting up the series.

You can read my review of the first book, here.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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