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The Vespertine was a full sensory experience for me. I wanted to savor every page and soak in every detail. The first pull came from the fact that the majority of the novel is set in Baltimore, Maryland close to my childhood home. Main character Amelia van Broek describes places I know by heart and the sunsets she describes are ones I've seen. What most struck me about this book is that I truly felt the plot as if through Amelia's eyes, I saw things as if I were there. I sympathized with her chosen fate and her motivation.
Written in first person poetic prose The Vespertine has an ethereal feel peppered with historical and paranormal elements. The back history is well researched and author Saundra Mitchell adds finishing touches that make it authentic to the Victorian age.. The tone is pulled between dark and tragic overlapped with frivolity during Amelia's first summer season with her cousin Zora. The girls enjoy lighthearted outings with friends, picnics and archery. Their friendship as cousins is endearing and deep. All seems well enough, until Amelia begins to see glimmers of the future, premonitions that come at sunset. Soon the home is flooded with calling cards and visits from others seeking their fortune. When future telling turns to prophecies fulfilled all begin to question if Amelia possesses the power to make her foretold events come true.
1889 in Baltimore is also a summer of looking for the perfect husband, a coming of age. Formal dances with dresses made of lace and organza as well as courting and interested callers. Zora, Amelia's cousin has her heart set on Thomas Rae, son of the local doctor. He is genuine and of impeccable manners, my favorite character in The Vespertine. Amelia, on the other hand, is dangerously and mysteriously drawn to Nathaniel Witherspoon, a fourteenth by profession-- one hired to round out the odd 13 number at dinner parties. He's an artist who smells of turpentine and oil paints, one below Amelia's society. I personally found him a little creepy, but captivating none the less. Nathaniel holds a secret and Amelia wants to know more.
Words can't describe how much I enjoyed this book. Everything from the beautiful poetic writing to the minor details of dress making and courtship. The Vespertine is more than just a book, it an emotional journey that will whisper to you long after you've shut the pages. Everything about it is haunting and lush. Saundra Mitchell masterfully writes in the actual voice of a young girl in the Victorian age; it's is authentic, moving, and magical. I can not wait for the companion novel Spring Sweet to be released in 2012.
Thanks so much to Houghton Mifflin and Netgalley for allowing me to step into the world that is The Vespertine. Learn more by visiting http://www.thevespertine.com/