Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Vespertine

The Vespertine, by Saundra Mitchell, is another of those books I got as a door prize for the GTOTW tour that stopped at Summer's Stories. I believe it may be my favorite book of the bunch so far, but I have one more author to read of the four on the tour.

It's historical fiction, with a fantastical element, for young adults. It takes place in 1889, in the United States, alternating between the early part of the year in Baltimore, Maryland and the autumn in Maine. Amelia is visiting Baltimore to find a husband since pickings are scarce in Maine. While there, she makes a close friend in the daughter of her chaperones and discovers an amazing gift. In the vespers, when the sun sets, she can catch glimpses of the future. When her predictions begin to come true, her talents are sought by all the ladies of Baltimore. Meanwhile, Amelia enjoys dinner parties and dances, where she meets an artist far below her station and, therefore, unworthy of her attention. But she can't get him off her mind, and when they are together, it's as though nothing else in the world matters, especially when he seems to have secrets of his own.

But not all of Amelia's predictions are happy ones, and when bad things happen, the blame falls to her. Amelia's bright summer is not going to end well because by the time autumn arrives in Maine, she will be entirely ruined.

I wouldn't spoil that last bit for you except for the fact that the book starts in Autumn, and the very first line says what I've just told you. I guess the mystery is how she gets there.

I really liked the style this book was written in. Even though it's for young adults, it always reminds you of its Victorian influences. But unlike some Victorian novels I've read, the young people still seem like the same young people everywhere. They have dreams. They stray from the rules as much as they are able. I have a feeling the author took a few liberties other Victorian novelists would not, but I thought it all worked together very well, this mix of old and modern.

The ending was, in some ways, both better and worse than I feared after reading the first line of the book. "Ruined" in Victorian terms usually means one thing, so I guessed but didn't know exactly what to expect. I'm happy it turned out the way it did, yet it wasn't a particularly happy ending altogether. In addition to that, the fantastical element of this book, though very light, is almost out of place and rather haunting, giving the story a ghost-like, off-kilter feel.

Nonetheless, this is a unique young adult read, and I can recommend it with three and a half stars.


  1. I loved it too, and am anxiously awaiting the companion novel with Zora in it! Hooray!

  2. Oooh, a companion novel! I guess I missed that there was going to be one. That makes me feel slightly better about the ending then.


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