Book Reviews

Unforgiven, by Liz McGregor {Book Review}

Living in South Africa, the sad reality is that crime is rife in our beautiful country. Day in and day out, reports of gender based violence, rape, murder, car jackings, theft….and on and on it goes. Some people, like Liz McGregor, has been touched more intimately by crime than any of us would hope to be touched…..her father was brutally murdered in 2008. In Unforgiven, she seeks to make sense of her loss, make sense of the why, and probably more importantly, the who….

What is Unforgiven about?

A searing, intimate memoir tracing the author’s attempt to find out the truth about her father’s murder.

Robin McGregor, an older man who has recently moved into a small town outside Cape Town, is brutally murdered in his home. Cecil Thomas is convicted for the crime, but his trial leaves more questions than answers. As much as his daughter Liz McGregor tries to move beyond her grief – she finds new work, she even discovers love – she still wants answers. What drove Thomas to torture and kill a complete stranger?

The author meets the murderer’s family and discovers that he comes from a loving, comfortable home. He is educated and skilled, there is no apparent reason for his descent into delinquency. After protracted obstruction from the prison authorities, she finally gets to confront him but not without putting herself in danger. She finds answers, but not the answers she is looking for.

Unforgiven tells a story seldom told: what happens to a family when one of their own is murdered? In a country where, year upon year, tens of thousands of people lose a loved one to violence. Where restorative justice is preached but not practiced. Where prisons are universities of crime. What would it take to achieve redemption? For the victim, the perpetrator and the country?

My Thoughts

This was a difficult book to read…. When I read fiction, I know the author is making up all the grisly details….it’s all a figment of their imagination. Knowing that Unforgiven, is based on real events, knowing that Liz’s pain and words are very real….it becomes uncomfortable and painful to read at times. However, I’m very grateful that she shared so honestly and vulnerably with us, the readers. 

Liz’s dad is brutally murdered just 2 days after her family buries her mom’s ashes. The perpetrator, Cecil Thomas, was caught and sentenced to 30yrs in jail. I can’t say that a prison sentence would be enough or not enough for me in that position, but Liz wanted more. She wanted to understand Cecil, where he came from and why he did what he did. With that in mind, she does everything she can to make contact with his family and to even meet him face to face.

I thought Liz displayed a lot more, I’m not sure empathy is the word, but a consideration for Cecil and the many Cecil Thomas’ of the world. Ensuring we knew some of his story, his background….almost humanising him despite what he had done to her family. Liz is also acutely aware of how race and poverty affects society, especially marginalised communities ….and she didn’t shy away from her priviledge in the book either.

There’s a lot of information in the book, a look into Liz’s family history, and we also learn a bit about what happens inside our prisons. Unforgiven is a very well written, thought provoking read, a memoir, but also a lot more.

Unforgiven is available at all leading book retailers and retails for around R270, though I just spotted it on Takealot.com for R199 😉

Thank you to Jonathan Ball Publishers for sending this over. All opinions are my own. 

I’m Simone, a mom of 3, a wife...obsessed with my family, makeup and books!

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