Friday, February 10, 2017

The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin

Sophia Tobin’s third novel is a gothic thriller with shades of Jane Eyre, Jamaica Inn and Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith.
Annaleigh has accepted the position of Housekeeper at White Windows in Yorkshire. Determined to begin anew, Annaleigh is shocked to discover that White Windows is much more remote than she had anticipated, that the servants are truculent and the owners mysterious. Brought up in bustling London Annaleigh was a foundling brought up by a painter and his wife she had anticipated a different life believing herself to be part of Mr. Calvert’s family but when love seemed to blossom between his stepson and adopted daughter Mr. Calvert is happy to have Annaleigh move away. Broken hearted and apparently without family Annaleigh quickly becomes fascinated by her darkly mysterious new employer Mr. Twentyman. The parallels between The Vanishing and Jane Eyre are obvious; the educated young woman fallen on hard times, the brooding hero, the gothic setting of the big house and the remoteness of the Yorkshire Moors but what could easily be a pastiche becomes in the careful hands of a skillful writer a wonderful homage and a clever reworking.
Also and perhaps more importantly Sophia Tobin has addressed the issue of women’s lack of rights in the period and the power and manipulation that men wielded to control them. Either as daughters, wives or servants women were essentially property without rights to their own bodies, their belongings or their children. A fast paced and wonderfully written gothic thriller which will appeal to Brontë fans and lovers of Victorian mysteries. This clever and insightful book should bring Sophia Tobin widely deserved critical and popular acclaim.

First published in The Historical Novel Review issue 79  (Feb 2017) as an Editor's Choice. 

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