Monday, September 3, 2012

Book Review: The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen

Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher:  W. W. Norton & Company (September 17, 2012)
Language:  English
ISBN-10:0393062929
ISBN-13:978-0393062922
Price: $23.95
Purchase: Amazon | B&N








 
 

Description

On a small snow-covered island—so tiny that it can’t be found on any map—lives twelve-year-old Minou, her philosopher Papa (a descendent of Descartes), Boxman the magician, and a clever dog called No-Name. A year earlier Minou’s mother left the house wearing her best shoes and carrying a large black umbrella. She never returned.

One morning Minou finds a dead boy washed up on the beach. Her father decides to lay him in the room that once belonged to her mother. Can her mother’s disappearance be explained by the boy? Will Boxman be able to help find her? Minou, unwilling to accept her mother’s death, attempts to find the truth through Descartes’ philosophy. Over the course of her investigation Minou will discover the truth about loss and love, a truth that The Vanishing Act conveys in a voice that is uniquely enchanting.

Review

The Vanishing Act is a well written and captivating story with mixture of fantasy and philosophy. This story is like a beautiful painting whose brush strokes are poetic and descriptive.

The central theme is about a twelve year old girl named Minou and the disappearance of  her mother. One day her mother puts on her best shoes, takes her big black umbrella and walks out the house never to be seen again.

Everyone thinks she is dead, except for Minou. She does not believe her mother is dead, but will return one day. She keeps a journal, building a case with the reasons why she believes her mother is still alive.

While Minou was walking on the beach, she comes across the body of a dead boy. She runs to tell her father. Her father comes and carries the dead boy to their home. He decides to put the dead boy on the bed in Minou's mother's blue room until the ship arrives in three days. In the interim, he opens the window to make sure the boy's body remains frozen.

Minou's father is a philosopher from the descendant of Descartes searching for the absolute truth. Both Minou and her father struggle to find answers and figure out what happened.

Her father believes the key to finding the absolute truth is somehow connected to the dead boy's body. He thinks he will get the answer (as does Minou) by sitting with him for three days until the ship arrives.

Minou and her father live on a small, remote island surrounded by the ocean. I get the impression the island is in the middle of nowhere. The only people living on this isolated island is Minou, her papa, a Priest, Boxman the magician and his dog, No Name.

You never quite know where any of them come from (except for Minou) and/or how they wound up on the island. However, there is mystery surrounding Minou's mother's arrival to the island as well as her departure. 

Minou's mother disappears the following day after performing in Boxman's magic show, called "The Vanishing Act".

The only item found was one of the shoes she wore the day she left.

There is an underlying melancholy theme throughout the book. Between Minou's complex and troubled father, who was traumatized by a war. The disappearance of her free spirited, artistic mother with a troubled past. The pretzel making Priest and his inability to sleep in the dark. The mysterious Boxman the magician and his lost love named Cosmina.

The Vanishing Act keeps you guessing and coming back for more.

I enjoyed reading The Vanishing Act and recommend this thoughtful novel to everyone.

In conclusion, I want to personally thank Erin Sinesky Lovett from W.W. Norton & Company for sending me a complimentary copy of this book to read and review.

Mette Jakobsen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1964 but now lives in Newtown, Sydney. She has a PhD in Creative Writing and a BA in philosophy. In 2004 she graduated from NIDA’s Playwrights Studio and several of her plays have been broadcast on ABC national radio. The Vanishing Act is her first novel.