“This is a story about a snow-covered island you won’t find on any map. It’s the story of a girl, Minou. A year ago, her mother walked out into the rain and never came back. It’s about a magician and a priest and a dog called No Name. It’s about a father’s endless hunt for the truth. It’s about a dead boy who listens, and Minou’s search for her mother’s voice. It’s a story of how even the most isolated places have their own secrets. It’s a story you will never forget.”
I initially picked up this book because of the cover; I know that this is some kind of cardinal sin, but it’s true. There was something eye-catching to me about the simple drawing and the blue background, and so I picked it up. I then walked around the shop with it for a while just in case something better caught my eye, it came down to a choice of two, long story short I left with this one…cover art won the day. Why am I telling you this? Well, to try and explain my feelings about this book. I’m conflicted. When I picked it up I was intrigued by the blurb (which I’ve written above), but I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the book, and I like to be sure I’m going to enjoy a book before I spend my money on it!
As it turns out, it did take me a while to warm up to The Vanishing Act; the style of writing felt stilted and annoying but the more I read, the more it began to feel refreshingly different. The book is written from Minou’s perspective and restricted to her comprehension of the world. This is, at times, very frustrating. It felt like secrets were being deliberately being kept from me, and any one who knows me will appreciate how much I dislike being kept in suspense. The truth seemed to hover in the margins of this book without ever making its way into the text itself and I wanted to scream at Minou for failing to see what I felt seemed so obvious. What soon became apparent, however, is that I was expecting to much of Minou. I was trying to make her an omniscient narrator when what she is really, is a twelve year old girl who is dealing with massive loss. Mette Jakobsen really captures Minou’s naivety and innocence without making the writing absurd and I think this is one of the strengths of the novel, that, and her ability to create a sense of sadness that is not too cloying.
So did I enjoy The Vanishing Act? It’s hard to say, it made me think about lots of things- and I enjoyed that. It was different from any of my safe bet books- and I enjoyed that. I suppose it comes down to this question, “do I want you to read this book?”, and the answer is yes!