Saturday, 12 March 2011

Review: The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

The summer of 1889 is the one between childhood and womanhood for Amelia van den Broek – and thankfully, she’s not spending it at home in rural Maine. She’s been sent to Baltimore to stay with her stylish cousin, Zora, who will show her all the pleasures of city life and help her find a suitable man to marry.
With diversions ranging from archery in the park to dazzling balls and hints of forbidden romance, Victorian Baltimore is more exciting than Amelia imagined. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset – visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. Newly dubbed ‘Maine’s own Mystic’, Amelia is suddenly quite in demand.
However her attraction to Nathaniel, an artist who is decidedly outside of Zora’s circle, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own – still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him. And while she has no future seeing the futures of others, she cannot predict whether Nathaniel will remain hers.
When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her being to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause of them.

The other day I finished ‘The Vespertine’ by Saundra Mitchell. I put the book down. I stroked the cover. I sighed, and thought about the beautiful prose. And then I picked it up and started it all over again. After two reading’s I still don’t really want to stop reading it, but I feel slightly more capable of making coherent sentences over it instead of just ‘flehnin, beautiful, love, book!’
It’s been a quiet few days.

As I explained on twitter 33 pages into my first reading, I was irrevocably in love, and completely ruined for all others – THAT’S HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS BOOK. Ahem.

So the most important thing here, is that you should go and read this book now. No seriously, I’ll even lend you my car to drive to the book store RIGHT NOW.

But some of you less persuadable people probably need a little more convincing…

Six reasons why you should go and read ‘The Vespertine’
1)      The cover. Not just one, but two! The pretty picture on the front and the old style hardback underneath. I swooned a little when I peeked under the jacket.

2)      If you liked Libba Bray’s ‘A Great & Terrible Beauty’ you will love this. That’s how I came to realize that I would need this book in my life pronto, because I adored Bray’s writing and wanted to find something similar.

3)      The Writing. I could go on and on over how exquisitely beautiful the writing is and it still wouldn’t convey just how amazing it is. I love funny writing, I love solid and well structured writing, but most of all I love poignantly beautiful and evocative writing. This falls firmly into the latter. Carrie Ryan describes the writing as ‘truer than truth – you feel them (the descriptions) rather than know them.’ You feel every word, every moment, every breath. It’s as though Mitchell has taken all of the moments you’ve watched and felt and put them into words you never even realized could express how you felt until you read them.

4)      The Characters. I adore Amelia, and it’s one of the most important things in the world to have a loveable heroine. I also love the relationship between her and Zora, which is summed up so perfectly in the opening chapters :
“In that moment, I suppose we could have decided to be rivals. Instead, Zora took my hand and said, ‘We’re too grand to stay indoors today, I believe.’”
Their friendship is so natural, so teasing and wonderful to read. It’s completely believable – as are the relationships that develop between the other girls in the circle and the delectable boys they come into contact with. And oh the boys… No triangles, no mess, just lust and sparks and gorgeousness, and the right people falling in love with the other right people. And Nathaniel. Oh baby. I loved him from the start, but there is one scene in particular that made me swoon. And be absolutely terrified for a moment, but mostly swoon. For those who have read the book – boys who ask you to jump, definite yes.

5)      The Premise.  I love fantasy, but I love subtle fantasy, and this falls firmly into that category. It’s such an exquisite idea, seeing visions in the sunset. An extraordinary gift that just adds that extra spark of magic to an already brilliant novel. Seriously this novel was amazing already, but this adds that extra dimension that makes into a wow novel.

6)      The Setting. I am a sucker for period settings in books (note to self to provide picture of the ridiculous numbers of regency books on my shelves.) and I am even more of a sucker when it’s all about the first season of the characters. There is something magical about a debutante’s season, and Mitchell conveys this perfectly. The cycle of visits, teas, picnics, dress fittings and most importantly balls – I love it. I want it. I want to climb inside this book and live it.

So if I haven’t made it clear already, I loved this book. In fact it may well be my favourite book of the whole year, and we’re only in March. I will come back to this book again and again – it’s one of those ones that as soon as I’ve finished I just want to plunge straight back in again and immerse myself in the world for as long as possible.

Books like this are true gems, and (saying this a lot, but the standard is so high this year!) I cannot wait for Saundra Mitchell’s next books.
Go out, read it, love it, and pass on the news, that ‘The Vespertine’ is the book to be reading right now.

No comments:

Post a Comment