Book Review: The Vespertine

May 22, 2011

Review by Lisa T. Bergren

I’m a packaging sucker—whether it’s a cool box, fabulous bottle, or an amazing cover—and as soon as I saw this beauty, I knew I had to read it.

Here’s how introduces it:

It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.

When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

My Two Cents:

To be honest, I had a hard time getting into this book and almost set it aside. I haven’t read historical fiction—that felt like it was written in the nineteenth century—since college. And therefore, it was a bit of a challenge to get into the cadence, settle into the rhythm of these character’s lives and the way they see things. But once you do…oh, once you do! Captivating, enthralling, deliciousness. So if you’re struggling up front, hang in there. It’ll be worth it, I promise.

The author’s gift when it comes to description (“Longing felt like a thread, slipping between us, sewing us together”) and snappy dialogue (“Do forgive me,” he said, eyes meeting mine as he brushed gloved fingers over my boot. “I’ve no reputation of my own, and I forget they matter”) made me literally, repeatedly pause, rereading a line, then two. It’s been a long time since a book has made me do that. I’ll be looking for the sequel, due out in 2012.

Mama Bear Warnings:

Not much to report here—this is an extremely clean read. There is some exquisite, sensual longing, but it’s not gratuitous, just part of the rich, fine tapestry of description the author weaves.

Read it? What’d you think? Comment below!