The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen
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.
As soon as The Vanishing Act was selected as one of the new Waterstones Book Club titles, and I saw its beautiful cover with a lovely quote from Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus; I knew I had to read it!
The story follows young Minou and her father as they each slowly come to terms with the disappearance of her mother, whilst living on a remote island with a couple of rather eccentric neighbours. Whilst everyone else believes Minou’s mother has drowned, after finding a lost shoe on the beach, Minou refuses to accept this and is convinced that her mother will return to her.
This is a lovely magical tale, albeit a little sad, but one that really will stay with you in some shape or form. Mette Jakobsen clearly has a very lively and vivid imagination and some of the images and emotions she conjures during the novel are very endearing and most of these shine through in the character of Minou. Narratives written from the perspective of a child do sometimes irritate me, but I did find myself really warming to Minou and I felt as though I were experiencing everything with her. The novel’s strengths definitely lies within the emotional undertones to the story; the smell of Minou’s mother’s orange cake wafting through the house long after her disappearance, the little arguments Minou writes in a notebook where she compiles evidential truths as to why her mother is still alive, and her father’s search for the philosophical truth when it is seemingly right under his nose. As you can probably tell, there are countless lovely touches to this novel, and it’s clear to see that Jakobsen has created something beautiful here.
But for me personally, I think Jakobsen’s imagination runs a little too far at times and the eccentricities of the characters; particularly with the neighbours (a magician and a priest), and of the story, make it all seem a bit too farcical and the novel begins to lose all the magic it held in the beginning. For instance, the whole sub-story of the dead boy being found and left in Minou’s fathers house for three days, seemed like more of a plot device than anything else. The boy was placed there to represent the death of Minou’s mother, and the grieving process for Minou herself and more, but you never actually find out who the boy is and nothing ever comes of it. It seems as though Jakobsen went a little too far in the magical side of the book, in a way that it lost its realism.
Despite my few quibbles with the book, I certainly enjoyed it and it made for the perfect read on a couple of cold nights in. It is definitely a book I would recommend to anyone looking for escapism this Winter, and for someone who can suspend all belief and delve into something magical. It’s not perfect, but it definitely places Jakobsen on my authors to watch list…
The Vanishing Act is out now, published by Vintage. A big thank you goes to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.