Thursday, January 10, 2013

Review: The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen

Title: The Vanishing Act

Author: Mette Jakobsen

Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company

Publication Date: September 2012

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone

Synopsis can be found here.
This book was given to me by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review.


Twelve year old Minou lives on a remote island with her father, Boxman who is a magician, a priest and a dog called No-Name. One day, the body of a boy washes ashore and they take care of his remains for three days until the boat can come and take him away. In these three days, Minou relives the time she shared with her mother, who disappeared off the island.

I had such high hopes for this story, a mere 218 pages. But for me the story falls short, never reaching it's full potential. Minou is a strong voice, for a twelve year old, narrating events she doesn't fully understand. Stuck on this island with her philosopher father, who treats his daughter more like an accomplice than a child, she recalls the events leading up to her mother's disappearance. While Minou's character is strongly influenced by her father, logical thinking, her creative and whimsical mother tries to lure Minou to use her imagination more and through this coaxing, we see Minou's trapped mother and content father.

There are some wonderfully vivid scenes in the story, especially dealing with Minou and her mother once her mother is gone as Minou begins to explore this new world she creates. But overall, I found the story lacking heart. Minou's voice fails to express the loneliness and sadness around her. She calls the priest Priest, and her dog No-Name, and the former magician Boxman because he makes boxes that he sells overseas, taking everything at face value. Just that, the lack of curiosity or view of depth made me question Minou's voice. In other parts of the story, she is alive with realistic insights and observations. I'm torn between who Minou in the story is and who I wished she could have been.

As for the plot and story itself, it moves slowly which isn't a bad thing. The isolation and quietness of the island is another character in the book. Jackobsen does a great job creating the setting and drawing the reader in, so much so that even after I have read the story, the island comes back to me. The mother's umbrella and peacock, her shoes and bag. I just wish there was something else happening on the island.

And then it ends, and I'm not satisfied. Not all of my questions are answered. Minou's secret is less than surprising and it leaves me unsettled.

Rating 4 Not My Cup Of Tea

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