Release Date: 12/01/17
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Hardback, 390pp
Genre: Historical Fiction
Summed up in a word: Fierce
First Impressions: At first I was concerned that The Vanishing was going to fall flat and that I wouldn’t make it to the end. The first act didn’t really set up the rest of the book as well as it could have. After reaching the second act I was blown away by Tobin’s complete change of pace, tone and writing style. All the rules went out the window and The Vanishing shifted into a completely different book. Annaleigh completely blew me away, she is a testament to the ferocity of a mother’s love. What began as a worryingly ‘by the numbers’ plot-line turned into a brilliant and meaningful novel. Simon & Schuster have a lot in-store for us in 2017. Check out what they have to offer at http://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/
On top of the Yorkshire Moors, in an isolated spot carved out of a barren landscape, lies White Windows, a house of shadows and secrets. Here lives Marcus Twentyman, a hard-drinking but sensitive man, and his sister, the brisk widow, Hester.
When runaway Annaleigh first meets the Twentymans, their offer of employment and lodgings seems a blessing. Only later does she discover the truth. But by then she is already in the middle of a web of darkness and intrigue, where murder seems the only possible means of escape… (Official Simon & Schuster Synopsis)
My Review – The Vanishing is intense, atmospheric and savage. I was with Annaleigh every step of the way, my blood boiling, hoping she would escape and find what she was looking for.
Being honest, I didn’t think I was going to see the end of this novel. The beginning of The Vanishing wasn’t at all bad, it just didn’t grip me the way I thought it might. Annaleigh is a strong main character and I didn’t see how, being so switched on, she could be in danger. I feel that the first act didn’t really set the novel up as well as it could of, but I appreciated what Tobin was doing. Building Annaleigh up so she could fall so much harder was a smart move. Annaleigh was an orphan, so I felt she should have been able to sense bad people from a mile away. Building up her hopes, abilities and sense of purpose allowed her to let her guard down, and then bad things happen…
The second and third acts of The Vanishing blew me away. So gritty, dark, atmospheric and outright chilling. It was the third act that really stood out in this novel for me. I could feel the intensity building up and Annaleigh’s ferocity truly amazed me. I am trying to keep this as a spoiler free review. I will do my best. The blurb for The Vanishing is quite short and sweet. It doesn’t give much away and that is a good thing. I got a sense from the tagline ‘All that I was I gave to you. All that I am you took from me. All that you have I will destroy.’ that plenty of bad things were going to happen, but Sophia Tobin managed to make it so much more meaningful and complex then it first seemed to be.
There is a decent balance between plot and characters. Events are described through the first person perspective of Annaleigh. This perspective was a good choice as it threw the reader off with her self-confidence and after things turn nasty, her inability to process certain events. The plot is paced well, with three distinct acts that dramatically change the tone of the book with each development. In terms of setting, the novel is set mostly on an estate named White Windows which is home to the Twentymans siblings. This is where Annaleigh takes a job as a housemaid as she feels she is no longer welcome with her family in London. The Yorkshire moors are sparsely populated, lonely, stormy and grey. This puts Annaleigh in edge and provides a great background atmosphere to the novel.
Tobin’s writing came across a bit tame to begin with. There are a few creepy bits in the first act but nothing that really set me on edge. The rest of the book is a different matter. Tobin is graphic, detailed, dark and emotional. Being a parent myself, this book really affected me and I was glad to see a significant change in Annaleigh at a pinnacle moment in the book. The Vanishing is chilling, suspenseful and deeply moving at times. The standout aspect of the book has to be the characters.
Each person was versatile, purposeful and was hiding something from each other. Annaleigh was the star and Tobin did a superb job crafting her life and personality. Marcus and Hester were a tad cliche with their creepy, unhealthy and unclear sibling relationship but overall I was impressed with how they were written. There are many notable characters but talking about them could ruin the experience. Tobin’s writing flows well, the dialogue is heated, engaging and meaningful and the plot design is just vague enough to keep the reader guessing all the way to the end.
Overall I was massively impressed with The Vanishing. A slow and uncertain start led to a truly horrific and moving novel that still haunts my thoughts so long after reading it. I have given the book 4.5/5 as it blew me away with intensity and meaning. There are flaws but my overall experience of the book was a memorable one so it deserves a high score. I seriously look forward to reading more of Sophia Tobin’s work.
About the Author (Photograph: Julia Skupny): Sophia Tobin was raised on the Isle of Thanet in Kent. Having graduated from the Open University, she moved to London to study History of Art, then worked for a Bond Street antique dealer for six years, specialising in silver and jewellery. Inspired by her research into a real eighteenth-century silversmith, Tobin began to write The Silversmith’s Wife, which was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize. It was published by Simon & Schuster in January 2014. Her second novel, The Widow’s Confession, was published in January 2015, and her third, The Vanishing, in January 2017.
Tobin lives in London with her husband. See more at: www.sophiatobin.wordpress.com