Review: The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin

vanishingWhat I thought:

I really don’t like posting negative reviews but I do feel it’s important to be honest about a book. After all,  one person’s trash is another person’s treasure and all that (not saying that this book is trash, it just didn’t work for me).

I thought I would love The Vanishing. I wanted to love it. The blurb and the reviews I had seen made it sound like it had almost been written for me: Bronte-esque (massive tick), historical (tick), set in Yorkshire (tick – I live there), not just in Yorkshire but on the bleak Yorkshire moors (massive tick), gothic (tick), mystery (tick), drama (tick). So why then did I struggle to even like this book, let alone love it?

The Vanishing started out so well. From the prologue and the first few chapters I really thought I was going to enjoy this book. It almost felt a little du Maurier – sneaking out of an inn in the dead of night, into a waiting carriage; what or who were they running from and why? Gothic and mysterious, it grabbed me and threatened not to let me go. But then it did. And not just lightly; I felt I had been unceremoniously dumped by the side of the road and was left wondering what the hell happened?

Here are my problems: Although clearly set in the past, it really could have been any time. References to bonnets and cloaks and candles obviously point to a previous time in history but I was told these things, rather than made to feel them. There was not enough imagery that enabled me to imagine the smells, sounds and atmosphere of either Yorkshire or London. I live in Yorkshire and one of my favourite places in the world is the Yorkshire moors – bleak, open, beautiful, rugged, wild. While I could certainly get a sense of place, it didn’t seep into my bones, and that’s what a really well-written book does for me: makes me believe I am right there in the thick of it.

I have read reviews that liken the writing to the Bronte sisters. Maybe that is unfair to even try to compare, as nobody can surpass the Brontes as far as I’m concerned, but even so, I really couldn’t even draw any real parallels other than the location, time period or attempt at what appeared to be trying to recreate elements of some well-known characters from their books. The characters were mostly never more than two-dimensional for me, although I did really take to Thomas Digby who was really one of the few likable characters in the book. I was constantly perplexed by Annaleigh (the protagonist) from her apparent falling in love with Marcus Twentyman, a character who had barely touched the pages at the beginning and appeared to have no redeeming qualities at all (certainly not in a brooding and aloof Mr Rochester or Mr Darcy way, but also in any way that I could fathom to cause Annaleigh to fall for him), through to her increasingly violent actions that felt more psychopath than revengeful. The other characters were never fully fleshed out enough for me either also seemed to blow hot and cold depending on which direction the author wanted to take the book at that time rather than for any discernable reason for their change in behaviour.

There were things that I liked, however, and I think it’s important to mention these: the sense of claustrophobia and isolation was palpable and I liked the brief respite that Thomas Digby and his family brought to the book. The cover is gorgeous too.

Verdict:

I am left with a feeling that is somewhere between perplexed, disappointed and scratching my head with incomprehension. Unbelievable motives, unconvincing and clichéd characters and a feeling that I have wasted several hours of my life. Every now and then I would have a moment of hope / joy when I thought the book might just get back on track again but unfortunately those were all too infrequent and brief.

A massive disappointment for me, but hey, each to their own and there are plenty more positive reviews of this book than there are negative and anyway, no press is bad press if it gets people talking, right? I am really keen to hear what others think of this book as there seem to be largely polarised views between the lovers and haters with little in between.

Advertisements

And the winner is…

 

After another fantastic literary blog hop hosted by Judith at Leeswammes’ Blog, where over 50 book blogs took part, I now have a winner as picked by random.org. So out of a total of 128 entrants, the winner is…

 

Quinxoticweetzie

 

Congratulations! I will send you an email shortly and then there will be a lovely copy of Her Fearful Symmerty on its way to you.

 

Thanks to everyone who joined in.

 

Day 38 – An author crush

Reader, I heart them…

Is it cheating to bundle these into one (especially as only a week or so ago I did a post about not being able to read Wuthering Heights)? If I had to pick only one sister then it would be Charlotte but how can I leave out poor neglected Anne and yes, even Emily? Yep, I have a crush on them all – thoses feisty, weather-worn Yorkshire lasses who like to roam around on moors and pen stories by candlelight.

I am lucky enough to only live about a 45 minute drive from Haworth where the Bronte sisters grew up with the Vicar father, brother Branwell and their Aunt once their mother and other sisters had all passed away in their childhoods. The Parsonage is still there today and is now a museum and I have wandered though their home on several occasions, looking at the chair Charlotte sat on to write or the sofa that Emily died on (determined to the last hour that she was OK and wanted to get up).

 

Wonder why their books had that gothic feel?

 

Bleak, bleak, bleak! Love it!

 

Haworth Village - cute little town with lovely book shops 🙂

 
Charlotte is my main crush, having penned my favourite book of all-time – Jane Eyre – and also the wonderful Villette (which I know some people find a challenging read); both books had me in awe and I didn’t want either of them to end. I still have Shirley and The Proffesor to read (and I also have a lovely copy of The Tales of Angria which she wrote as a child). I have also read Charlotte Bronte’s Letters in which she writtes to her friend, nurse, sisters and even William Thackaray and Elizabeth Gaskell!
 
I have read and loved both of Anne’s books too, and although I did enjoy Agnes Grey it didn’t have the magnitude of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall which was way before its time and I would love to know what sort of a reception it got back then (a woman not towing the line? Pffft!) .
 
I have made my feelings of Wuthering Heights clear before but despite having had 3 attempts at it, I still don’t feel ready to stop trying. Is it because she’s a Bronte? Probably.
 
So, there you have my author crush(es).
 

  Who is yours?

 

Day 36 – A favourite book recommended by another book blogger

What does “need” have to do with it?…

Where to even begin! Since I began blogging my shelves have more than quadrupled in size, my floorboards are creaking under the weight and my husband nearly has a stroke every time he comes near my office and sees piles of books all over the floor! I keep trying to tell him it’s not my fault – it’s all the other book bloggers who keep reading things that make me need to read them too to which he tried to argue that I don’t “need” them. Oh but I do!!!!!

Anyhoo, after much deliberation I have chosen The Likeness by Tana French which ended up in my top 10 of last year. I saw a review of this book written by Sakura of Chasing Bawa book blog and just knew I would love it and I did. If you haven’t been over to Sakuras blog yet, make sure you do – she has a fantastic blog (one of my favourites). If you haven’t been acquainted with this book yet then take a look at my review here and then buy or borrow it! 🙂

 

  Have you ever been recommended a book by another blogger and loved it?

 

Day 35 – The longest book I have ever read

Count how many pages…

I’m not really one for long books. I wish I was – there are so many I want to read! It’s the size that puts me off even picking most of them up: what if it takes too long to read when there are so many other books out there waiting to be read? I am easily distracted by things that drop through my letter box and books that have been on my shelf for a long time can be overlooked.

I would love to read more though including Charles Dickens (David Copperfield, Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend to name just a few), Gone With the Wind, The Passage, The Crimson Petal and the White, Quincunx, Shantaram, Shogun and A Suitable Boy are all on my shelves, staring sadly at me every time I pass them.

Despite saying that, I have read some long books and I almost always love them when I do (although part of me wonders if I love them so much becasue I am so rapturous of  having got through them!). The longest book I have read so far is The Count of Monte Cristo which I loved. Swashbuckling, dramatic and thrilling!

 

  Which is the longest book you have read and was it worth it?

 

Day 31 – A book that everyone else seems to love except me

Let me in at your window…

Actually,  the fact that I am the only one who doesn’t love this book isn’t strictly true as I know others who have struggled with it too, but the reason I have picked it is because I sort of feel I ought to love it: it’s written by a Bronte (√), it’s set in Yorkshire (√), it’s set on windswept moors (√), it’s gothic (√), it’s a love story (√). So why then don’t I love the damn thing? This book has all the ingredients for the perfect book for me! It’s not for lack of trying either: I have attempted to read Wuthering Height at least three times and each time I can’t even get past 100 pages.

 

The big question is:

  Do I keep trying? Is it worth it? Or should I just accept that Wuthering Heights and I don’t   get along and move on?

 

Day 14 – A favourite 19th century novel

                      Reader, I love this book…

I love Victorian novels, although for years I was afraid of them. After reading (and hating) Great Expectations in school I was put off reading any more for another 20 years until on a whim I decided to give GE another go to see if I still felt the same….and I loved it! Shortly after that I picked up Jane Eyre and I was blown away from the first page: it is a thriller, a romance, it is gothic, had wit and warmth and there was not a single moment in the book that I wasn’t enraptured. I had no idea that 19th century literature could be so wonderful.

Jane Eyre is a fantastic character and I had more than a few laugh-out-loud moments with her. My favourite being when the school governer tell her she is naughty and asks how she can stop being burned in the pits of hell to which she replies “I must keep in good health, and not die.” Genius! Jane is a wonderful character and it was a pleasure to spend time in her company. This is a book that I love so much that I have about 6 different copies of the book and I visit the Bronte Parsonage (only an hours drive from my house) about twice a year now.

 

 

  Which books from this century do you love?