Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

{February 26, 2011}   The Vespertine, by Saundra Mitchell

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has been so gracious as to allow me review an ARC of this novel, through Netgalley, prior to the novel hitting bookstores March 7th! 

Synopsis from Goodreads: “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.”


If you love Jane Austen, you need to read this book.  If you love time period pieces, you need to read this book.  If you enjoy paranormal novels wrapped in forbidden romance, you need to read this book.  If you enjoy coming of age novels… I think you get the picture…

I loved this book!  The prose are delightful, and it is apparent that Mitchell spent many hours researching the time period for her novel, and pouring love into every aspect of her writing.  The superb prose and descriptions allow the reader to transcend into 19th century Baltimore, a time when everything was much slower and so vastly different from today.  Reading this novel is a mini vacation within itself, and I had a hard time putting it down to attend to my own daily life!

I hate to compare novelists to each other, but in this case, I think comparing Mitchell to Austen is necessary.  Like Austen, Mitchell dwells on the coming of age story; Amelia van den Broek visits her cousins in Baltimore for the “coming out” season, looking for a suitable husband.  August, Amelia’s brother, has sent her to Baltimore in hopes that a respectable marriage will pull him and his wife up the social ladder.  Wonderful descriptions of dances and 19th century life ensue, compelling the reader further into the novel as we watch Amelia and her friends swoon over eligible young men, and some not so eligible young men.  What sets Mitchell apart for Austen, and other novelists that are similar, is the paranormal storyline she presents within the novel.  Mitchell makes this story her own through the paranormal twist she creates: Amelia can see the future.  But don’t rush in thinking the whole novel is about the paranormal.  It is a love story, after all, and the paranormal does not hit the forefront until the very middle.  While it exhibits itself twice prior, Amelia and those around her give it little heed.  Hence, the prophecies are, more or less, swept over in the beginning.  Of course, that doesn’t last, and there is a complete swing in the action as the paranormal side of the story takes over. 

Psychic ability and prophecy first became exceedingly popular in the 19th century as many people, young women and men alike, wanted to quantify their future.  Mitchell does a wonderful job bringing to light this historical phenomenon within her novel, and creating a wonderful cast of characters you will fall in love with.  Five stars.


Jamie P says:

Eh, this was okay. I didn’t think it merited comparison to Austen, although I did very much enjoy the paranormal period piece aspect. My favorite characters were Zora and Thomas. I fell in love and was rooting for them, and very nearly cried at the outcome. Mitchell confused me at the outset with the formatting, and I was never really satisfied with the explanation of both Amelia and Nathaniel’s abilities. A good read, but I would only rate about 3 stars.

Ms. B says:

I too enjoyed the paranormal piece. I think that’s my favorite genre. The Zora and Thomas story was so sweet… what a bombshell!! :) I was not satisfied with the information surrounding the abilities either, but I believe Mitchell left it that way to make room for the sequel. I believe this is a trilogy, but I could be wrong.

19th Century Balitmore eh? Thank you for the review! Do drop by to our blog too :)

Ms. B says:

Thank you! I visit your blog often. I really like it (and put your link on my page). I’ve been toying with the idea of joining your blog as a reviewer, but I am not sure how much that entails. You have a lot of reviewers; which reviewer are you? Cheers, and thanks for the continued support!

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