My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have to sheepishly admit that when I started reading The Vespertine, I didn't really know what Vespertine meant and I had to consult a dictionary to understand the meaning of the word even before turning the first page. I was therefore feeling quite negative about this book before I even started reading because frankly I just don't like not knowing things and I don't like having to consult a dictionary to understand a book. Little did I know what was hiding between the covers of this delightful novel...
This is definitely not your typical history novel and its definitely not a typical paranormal read either. In keeping with my previous pre-release reviews I will merely quote the summary of the book from Goodreads, which conveniently says just enough to peak your interest and not spoil the plot for you! So here goes: "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.
WHAT I LIKED
I experienced this book as a harmonious mixture of sweet romance bordering on the whimsical and dark tragedy which seems at times almost overwhelming. At first I found the poetic prose to be a bit exaggerated but it quickly became a very important part of my enjoyment of the book. At times it feels as though the book is being sung by the narrator which equal notes of black despair and bright happiness, fun and young love. As you can see it has certainly inspired my writing in this review. I lived the relationships between the characters which felt realistic and really engaged the emotions. The almost over descriptive writing of the author also felt authentic as history tells us that this almost sickly sweet descriptiveness was the way of the Victorian lady. Even though never having been to Baltimore or Broken Tooth it was easy for me to imagine the surroundings of a late 1800's Baltimore. The love story, although being of the "love at first sight" variety which seems to be at the core of all my critisism these days, just felt right in tune with the mellifluous setting of the book. I don't believe it would have worked as well any other way. I felt truly bereft at the end of the book at not having been able to continue reading the story of Amelia and Nathaniel and the story stuck by me for quite a while after I put the book down (which is once again evident by my colourful writing today).
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Although I thoroughly enjoyed this book I must admit I did not enjoy the way in which the scenes were switched between Autumn and Spring/Summer of the year in which the book is set. The transition between these different times in the story just did not feel smooth, but I managed to ignore the small irritation that this caused and enjoyed the book tremendously nonetheless.
SO WHAT’S THE VERDICT?
A resounding two thumbs up from me! Although I know that there may be some who will find this read a bit overwhelming, I believe most of you will love it just as much as I did! This book is a diamond amongst my favourite reads and contains all of my favourite elements (ie. history, romance and a hint of the paranormal). I sincerely hope I shall be able to read more of The Vespertine in future.
A big thank you Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (through Netgalley) for allowing me the opportunity to review this book!