Monday, February 21, 2011

The Vespertine, by Saundra Mitchell

Mitchell, Saundra. The Vespertine. 293 p. Harcourt Children's Books. 2011. Hardcover $16.99. ISBN 9780547482477.

In the summer of 1889, Amelia travels from her home in rural Maine to visit her relatives in Baltimore, with the task of securing a proper marriage prospect. However, she quickly becomes enamored of an intriguing young artist who isn't a suitable match at all, and begins having visions of the future that only appear at sunset. While her mysterious power is entertaining at first, it brings horrifying consequences.

The lush first-person prose in this novel effectively evokes the Victorian era. Tension is sustained throughout the narrative, as the story opens in the autumn after Amelia's ill-fated summer in Baltimore, making the reader immediately aware that something terrible has happened. Set in flashbacks, the plot proceeds toward its dramatic climax at a leisurely pace, with quite a lot about calling cards and dances in between Amelia's visions. Although I wouldn't describe this book as action-packed, it does deliver on the promised tragedy in the end.

There is much to enjoy here- the development of Amelia's relationships with others, for example... the endearing friendship with her cousin, and her forbidden romance that sizzles with small improprieties. The author's detailed portrayal of Victorian-era Baltimore is detailed and feels fully realized, and the descriptions of the fashions of the time are particularly lovely.

Although it leans more toward the historical than the paranormal, this book will appeal to fans of Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy. And now that I've read The Vespertine, I really want to check out Saundra Mitchell's first novel for young adults, Shadowed Summer!

Look for The Vespertine in stores on March 7. ARC for review provided by the publisher via NetGalley.


  1. It made me want to go have my very own calling cards printed up!

  2. Hee, I just found this cute site for letterpress calling cards... tempted!


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