Friday, March 18, 2011

Book Review: The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

Title: The Vespertine
Author: Saundra Mitchell
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
E-ARC (via Netgalley),
Date Published: March 7, 2011
Description (Taken 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.
The Vespertine is a stunningly elegant novel set in summer and autumn of 1889. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction, even when it has a slight paranormal twist, but Saundra Mitchell completely captivated me with her words. Amelia’s summer in Baltimore, learning the ways of women and finding a suitable husband, doesn’t sound like anything out of the ordinary, but when she begins to have visions at sunset and her world spins out of control, we get to see just how extraordinary it all is.

Amelia’s summer away from home and her overbearing brother is full of freedoms and adventure. She’s a young woman, but with her second cousin Zora, she’s a force to be reckoned with. The two girls live for slight misbehaviors and sidelong glances at boys they should not be after. Their interactions are very much sisterly and full of affection. Amelia’s instant attraction to Nathaniel, an unsuitable young man, is heady and delicious. Their encounters fan the flames of Amelia’s fiery heart and made me yearn for more.

If Mitchell’s vivid writing and incredible setting isn’t enough, Amelia’s sunset visions and the slow reveal of a ‘ruined girl’ make this impossible to put down. The time period lends so much to character development and growth because in 1889, young women were meant to be proper young ladies who did not go out alone and certainly did not attract or accept the attention of young men without the use of proper channels (i.e.: suitors calling on them). But Zora and Amelia enjoy flaunting the rules a bit and are much happier following their emotions and their hearts.

Mitchell’s writing, as I said before, is stunning. The words she weaves together form these beautiful sentences and this unforgettable story. It truly feels like the reader is not an outside party looking in, but someone who was there, alongside Amelia every step of the way. Amelia easily reels the reader with her tenacity and Nathaniel had me swooning with his straight-forward feelings without any pretenses or disguises. There is a sense of urgency throughout the book that makes it a page-turner. The autumn chapters in Maine that are interspersed throughout Amelia’s summer stay in Baltimore heighten the tension because it is clear that the future is not that bright. Getting there kept me on the edge of my seat.

The Vespertine is gorgeous and beautiful and full of words that made me sigh. Saundra Mitchell has created a story that I never thought I’d enjoy, yet I’ve discovered I love. Amelia, Zora, Nathaniel, and every single character in between are a delight to read; whether it’s for their good qualities or their bad. I wish this story was longer so I could have travelled along with Amelia through Baltimore, Maine, and anywhere the vespers would have taken her. I implore you – even if this doesn’t sound like your kind of story – read The Vespertine. It took me by surprise and I can only hope its magic works on you as well.

Opening line: I woke in Oakhaven, entirely ruined.  ~ pg. 3

Favorite lines: “Only a fraud can promise you everything. It’s truth that has limits.” ~ pg. 166
And this one is gorgeous:
Swept unsteady, I startled at the sweet pain that filled me. Since our first meeting, I ran mad with him; he ran wild in my veins. We had no quiet affection to spare between us, only tempting and taunting and impossible longings. ~ pg. 226
*This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

Find Saundra Mitchell online:

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Jenny said...

Beautiful review Nikki, I absolutely adored this one as well! I couldn't agree more on her writing, I was blown away by it as well. I can't wait for the next book, though I wish it were a continuation of Amelia's story instead of a companion novel!

The Slowest Bookworm said...

I really love the sound of this one and that was a lovely review. One day I will get to read it :D

YA Book Queen said...

This sounds awesome. Definitely putting this on my TBR list...Great review! :)

Candace said...

What a fantastic review! I really enjoyed it as well but I love historical fiction. It's surprising me that I'm hearing all these people who don't like historical fiction really loved this one. I think all you non historical readers might like historical fiction more then you think! Maybe you just need to read the lighter stuff, more YA then Outlander or Pride and Prejudice, lol on my two examples. Anyway, glad you loved it!

Natalie (Mindful Musings) said...

Glad to hear that you really enjoyed this one, even though historical fiction isn't usually for you. I actually really like HF. I'd agree with Candace...maybe try reading some more YA historical fiction? You never might surprise you! Lol.

Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books) said...

Jenny - It's seriously beautiful! I'm okay with the next one being a companion novel though. Sometimes when an author tries to continue one character's story there just isn't enough to tell, so I'd rather a great standalone with a companion than a great opening novel and an okay sequel.

Bookworm & Book Queen - I hope you both get a chance to read it. It is so worth it.

Candace & Natalie - I need to get over my book prejudices and branch out to read more because I feel like I'm missing out on so many great books.

Bere said...

What a wonderful review, Nikki! You've really made me want to read this one. Soon. The cover is super beautiful too. I'm not much of a historical fiction fan either. But I think I'll love this one! Glad to hear you loved it, Nikki. Thank you for your review =].

~The Book Pixie said...

I like historical and paranormal so I'm pretty confident I'll love this. Especially after that review! :D


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