Fans of Victorian Literature – particularly that of the Brontë sisters – will find much to admire in Sophia Tobin’s The Vanishing. It would be hard to imagine the existence of a newly-written work that so effortlessly emulates the stylings of novels from that period. And yet, Tobin manages to make make her story not only feel fresh, but also amazingly relevant to our modern world.
Like many classic Victorian novels, The Vanishing starts with a young woman on a journey to a distant location in search of employment. Our heroine, Annaleigh Calvert, has been offered a position at White Windows, the home of Marcus Twentyman. Twentyman resides there with his sister, Hester, and two servants – whom Annaleigh is to oversee. Immediately, Annaleigh feels unwary about the strange dynamic within the stately manor.
Following another Victorian trope, Annaleigh encountered a mysterious – yet intriguing – gentleman on her difficult journey to White Windows. That man turns out to be Thomas Digby, and Annaleigh’s entanglement with him will continue for years. Throughout the book, the focus remains on Annaleigh’s relationship with the other characters within the novel. Each reader is likely to have a favorite amongst these pairings, but the author imbues them all with complexity and insight.
The storyline of The Vanishing is a slow build, with much of the first half devoted to building ambiance and tone. On the evenings when Annaleigh travels out to the moors in search of her soul and Marcus Twentyman, readers will be easily forgiven for imagining she might bump into Cathy or Heathcliff on her journey. This version of the Yorkshire Moors seems inextricably tied to the setting of that classic doomed romance.
The second half of The Vanishing gains momentum in both plot and the passage of time. The harsh developments in Annaleigh’s life are part and parcel of her maturation into a fully complex character and watching it unfold forever invests readers to her well-being.
To say more is too spoiler-y, but know that Sophia Tobin manages to make Annaleigh’s quandary relevant to modern women without stretching beyond believably within the novel’s time-period. Reading The Vanishing should send new readers back to Tobin’s earlier works. The audiobook version of this tale is well produced and engaging.