The Vanishing, Sophia Tobin
Published June 5th 2018 (First published January 12th 2017)
From the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Silversmith’s Wife comes an “undeniably page-turning (Daily Mail) novel: “Think Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre, but ten times darker…as eerie and gothic as the Yorkshire Moors it is set on” (Stylist).
On top of the Yorkshire Moors, in an isolated spot carved out of a barren landscape, lies White Windows, a house of shadows and secrets. Here lives Marcus Twentyman, a hard-drinking but sensitive man, and his sister, the brisk widow, Hester.
When runaway Annaleigh first meets the Twentymans, their offer of employment and lodging seems a blessing. Only later does she discover the truth. But by then she is already in the middle of a web of darkness and intrigue, where murder seems the only possible means of escape…
Stunning and vividly atmospheric, The Vanishing is thrilling historical fiction for fans of Sarah Waters and Tracy Chevalier.
The description of The Vanishing ticks so many of my book boxes, it was practically written with me in mind. I knew I had to read this gothic, atmospheric novel set on the Yorkshire moors, that drew comparisons to Jane Eyre and Sarah Waters. Those are big shoes to fill, and I was very curious to discover whether or not The Vanishing could even come close to filling them. The short answer is no; but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy this reading experience.
Sophia Tobin is clearly familiar with the gothic genre, and she evokes all the characteristics one would expect. There are the eerie moors, the secluded estate, the employee/employer relationship, the unreliable servants, the older female relative, the mysterious painting, and the locked rooms. I can see how some readers would view these elements of the novel as cliché, but as someone who loves this genre, I didn’t mind them. The Vanishing certainly doesn’t break the mold; much of the plot will be familiar territory for most readers.
The writing was less atmospheric than I had hoped, and Tobin relied too heavily on telling instead of showing. I would’ve loved richer descriptions and fuller character development. Certain events did not ring true because we were not given sufficient insight into the thoughts and feelings of these characters. It was almost as if we were missing a few scenes that would’ve better explained their relationships and actions.
Annaleigh is not a particularly memorable protagonist, and many of her choices were not backed up by the text. I get that her background as a foundling caused her to crave love and affection, but her relationship with her employer Marcus developed seemingly out of thin air. I did think the gaslighting and abuse elements were handled well, and I was reminded a tiny bit of Anya Seton’s Dragonwyck and Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I was very interested in the themes of trust, belonging, and loss of self, but wish that they were explored more fully.
The dramatic tension promised by the flash forward in the opening, was only sustained for part of the novel, before dissipating a little too quickly at the end. Tobin does throw in a few small twists, and I found one of the mysteries to be especially interesting. I was never on the edge of my seat, but I was pleasantly entertained throughout.
If you’re looking for something to satisfy a craving for gothic historical fiction, The Vanishing may fit the bill, as long as you temper your expectations. This is not the crème de la crème of the genre, but it did offer a fun taste of it. It won’t be one I’ll be re-reading, or one that will stick with me for long, but it was one that I enjoyed at the time.
**A huge thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster UK for the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review**