Book Review: The Misbegotten by Katherine Webb

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Captivating and compelling.  Once I had picked this up, I struggled to put it down.  A book full of engaging characters, mysteries and dark secrets.  Beautifully written. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Dark truths. Beautiful lies.

Bath, England, 1821. Rachel Crofton escapes the binds of her unhappy employment as a governess by marrying a charming self-made businessman. She sees a chance to create the family and home she has so long been without, but her new life soon takes an unexpected turn.

Through her new husband’s connections, Rachel is invited to become the companion of the reclusive Jonathan Alleyn, a man tortured by memories of the Peninsula War, and tormented by the disappearance of his childhood sweetheart, Alice.
Starling, foundling servant to the Alleyn family, is convinced that Alice, the woman she loved as a sister, was stolen from her. Did Alice run away? Or did something altogether more sinister occur? Starling is determined to uncover the truth. Others want only to forget, and will go to extreme lengths to do so.

Rachel’s arrival has an unsettling effect on the whole Alleyn household, and suddenly it seems that the dark deeds of the past will no longer stay contained. Shattering truths lurk behind Bath’s immaculate facades, but the courage Rachel and Starling need to bring these truths to light will come at a very high price.

Favourite Quote

‘…You have no knowledge of what man can do to his fellow man.  I tell you, if there is a soul then there is also a beast in all men, which would take over all thought and deed if it could, and wreak havoc.’

(The Misbegottem by Katherine Webb, pg 187-188)


I was drawn to the book by the title, for “misbegotten” is not a word used regularly in modern parlance.  So I was immediately intrigued by this.

Captivating and compelling, The Misbegotten is an intricate web of dark secrets.  This story is cleverly told, beautifully written and full of engaging characters.

The early eighteenth century is brought to life in all its glory, and all its ugliness.  We get to see the beauty of Bath: it’s famous architecture and landmarks as well as the dirt and grime of where the poorer and l well-to-do inhabitants live and work.

Our main characters are cast from a different mould of character usually found in stories set in this time period, especially the women. One, Starling, is a lowly hedge-rat, with no family, no background, no anything – she doesn’t even know her name.  The other, Rachel, is a woman fallen down the social class ladder and forced to work as a governess.  Also penniless, and without power in her own right, she decides to marry a handsome, charming man.  Both women are strong and independent in their way, though limited by the conventions of the day.  And finally, there is Jonathon Alleyn, a man tortured in his mind by what he’s seen and what he doesn’t know.  But there is one person that brings them and their stories together: the missing Alice Beckwith.

The author does not turn away from the gritty reality of life for the lower classes of the eighteenth century.  For many, it is dark, and it is short, and there is little hope.  The majority have no power or say, and for women (at all levels of society), they are classed in law as the possessions of men, first their father’s and then their husband’s.  They live at the mercy of others, and that is a truly terrifying thought.  Neither does the author hold back when describing scenes of the war in Spain; many of the passages are hard to read.

This was one of those books that I was disappointed to reach the end of.  I enjoyed reading it, and devoured it as I needed to find out what wouId happen next, but once I was finished, I was sad.  I missed the characters.

All-in-all, I thought The Misbegotten was a fantastic book. I liked the author’s style, and although it is a long book (around 500 pages), I found it very readable and not at all heavy.  As such, I would certainly like to read more by Katherine Webb.


Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019 – I’ve chosen this book for challenge #4 in the list: A book set in a place you would like to visit.


5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Misbegotten by Katherine Webb

  1. Pingback: Bookish Reflections – March 2019 | Sammi Loves Books

    • Me too. And yes, it was unexpectedly compelling…I had chosen this because I wanted what I thought would be a less intense book to read at the time, only to find that a few pages in and I struggled to put the book down.

      Liked by 1 person

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