It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him. When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause. (Summary from Goodreads)
Mitchell sucks you into another time, full of mystical going ons, and leaves you aching!
Sent to spend the summer in Baltimore with her cousin, Mrs Stewart and her family, Amelia is excited to spend time amongst society, and even more so when her and Zora become instant friends. Nothing could have prepared Amelia for what the summer actually brings. First she meets Nathaniel, an artist who earns money attending dinner parties so the numbers remain equal, whom Amelia is instantly drawn to. Their attraction only grows as Nathaniel appears whenever Amelia thinks of him. Then one evening staring into the sunset, Amelia has a vision of Zora in a beautiful dress dancing with her crush...a vision that comes true. Her gift becomes immediately popular amongst society, and Amelia and Zora relish the attention. However when her visions take a dark turn, some question whether Amelia's gift is not in fact a curse. As her visions culminate in a multitude of terrible events, Amelia may wish she'd never looked into that first sunset...
So. The Vespertine was a bit of a surprise for me. I thoroughly enjoyed this book - that's not the surprise. Once I started, I couldn't put it down until I'd finished it, reading through to 3am again to do so. Which again, not so surprising considering Mitchell's first chapter - wow, what a way to grab our attention! I was sucked in right from the beginning! What is surprising though, is just how much I liked The Vespertine, considering certain aspects of the story that usually don't really appeal to me. Despite these though, The Vespertine is a captivating read, as I found myself completely invested in both Amelia and Zora, wondering how their story would turn out. Added to this is the paranormal elements that gave The Vespertine just that little bit more of a mystical and mysterious edge, what with Amelia's gift having such an effect while being so unknown. I loved the portrayal of Amelia's visions, I think Mitchell did a brilliant job ensuring the originality of this aspect...though I wish some answers could have been provided as to why they simply manifested one day. Still, the mystery is part of the awe!
Firstly, the elements I found just that little bit disappointing. Well, I've said it before...I'm not a fan of insta-love - and Amelia and Nathaniel's romance was a case of just that, unfortunately. I could understand their being drawn to one another, and the tension and attraction of their first couple of meetings was nicely done. But from there came declarations of undying love much too soon and so I found their relationship lacking substance. I didn't feel the connection Mitchell was trying to create. To be honest, their declarations had me rolling my eyes, because without the development I crave, such emotions become soapy and over the top for me. Despite this however, their relationship fuels some of the drama and climax of The Vespertine, enough so that by the end I could look past the insta-love nature of their romance and simply appreciate their story.
Speaking of drama and climax, much of The Vespertine's twists were in fact somewhat predictable. This element is a bit of a conundrum for me. You see, in some instances, putting the pieces together, realising exactly what was going to happen, diminished much of the shock factor the story could have had...but then on the other hand, I was still on tenterhooks waiting for it all to happen, and so the gripping nature of the story wasn't lost at least. So while predictability isn't such a great thing overall, I think here Mitchell was able to use it to put us further into Amelia's shoes - knowing what would happen, but not the specific whens and hows of it all. Much of the alternating chapters between Amelia's present, where she's obviously been shunned, and her past, relating the events leading up to her returning to her brother, helps to push the tension of knowing mostly what is going to occur and simply waiting for it to play out. I can't say I don't wish there could have been some huge shocking twist that completely threw me for a loop, but Mitchell is still able to leave readers on edge despite some of The Vespertine's predictability.
What won me over the most about The Vespertine is definitely Amelia and Zora, and their friendship. I adored the easy nature of their relationship, their snappy attitudes providing a light and humorous touch to the story. The emotional connection lacking between Amelia and Nathaniel is more than made up for through the heartwarming friendship Amelia and Zora shared. It's this and the strain they endure by the end of the novel that had me hooked. I truly felt for each of them and was desperate to turn each page in order to get to what I'd hoped would be a happy ending for the both of them. The ending kind of left me a little up in the air in a few ways, as I'm sure it will or has many readers...Thank God The Springsweet is due out in just a few more weeks, I tell you! I'm beyond excited to continue Zora's story!
Overall, The Vespertine is a wonderful read once past the less inspiring elements, completely winning me over and sucking me in!
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Published date: 7 March 2011
Format: Kindle edition
Challenges: 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge;