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The Vanishing Act: A Novel

3.32  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,258 Ratings  ·  259 Reviews
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
...more
ebook, 208 pages
Published September 17th 2012 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published September 10th 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Crazyjamie
It is relatively rare that my own view differs drastically from general public opinion, but I am thoroughly aware that this is one of those situations. The Vanishing Act has received rave reviews, and it is worth clarifying that I understand entirely why that is. I just disagree with the general consensus.

The Vanishing Act has received those rave reviews because it is short, charming book that stands out both for the strength of its prose and its originality. And it is true to say that it is, f
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Leslie Lehr
Oct 08, 2012 Leslie Lehr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I grabbed this book from my stack of must-reads to take to the hospital because it was light. When my surgery was pushed back and I was left alone in the corner bed with an IV and warm blankets and no phone, I opened this book and escaped into another world. When the surgeon apologized for the delay then left me alone, I hid my delight in returning to this magical island as if it was my own vanishing act. Mette Jakobsen's lovely novel is a sensory poem about a little girl on an island torn betw ...more
Elizabeth
Dec 11, 2012 Elizabeth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Melancholic and thoughtful.

This is a strange book filled with fragile characters. It is part-fable, part study of the isolated, and part mystery. Nothing much is resolved or explained and the dreamy prose almost makes up for it. Almost.

Still, I enjoyed the beautiful language and details of island life. I liked the limited perspective of twelve year old Minou and how it allowed the reader to draw their own conclusions.
Marika
May 15, 2012 Marika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a gem of a novel. Gorgeous imagery, philosophy, and art combine to make a novel that may be enjoyed by adults, teens, or precocious twelve year-olds. Minou lives on a small island, one that can be walked around in under an hour. In addition to Minou and her lighthouse, there is her father, a priest in the church, Boxman and his dog, No Name, in the barn, and, before she vanished, Minou's mother. One year ago Minou's mother disappeared. Though it is believed that she died, Minou knows she ...more
Latie
Feb 25, 2013 Latie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-audiance
As I was reading this book I initially found it interesting, unique, and written with a consistent atmosphere of magic. However when I made it to the final page of the book I found myself puzzled.

Jakobsen narrates the book from a 12 year olds point of view, Minou, who resides on a tiny island with a band of misfit characters: a philosopher, a priest, a magician, a dog and a dead boy.

I kept looking for connections, hidden meanings, or for Minou to explain things. No answers came. Despite this,
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Jane
Feb 08, 2013 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
“You might not believe my story. You might read it as a fairytale, a fable straight out of my imagination.”

So says twelve year-old Minou. She lives on a small, remote, nameless island Minou with her Papa, who is a philosopher and a fisherman. The island has only just two more residents. Priest and Boxman. A holy man and a magician.

Why they are there, what happened in the past isn’t clear, isn’t clear. And there are other questions in the air.

What happened to Minou’s Mama?

She set out for a walk i
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Brooke
Jan 25, 2013 Brooke rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Erin Morgenstern's ( author of The Night Circus) review of this book is what made me want to read this. She said, "This book is a precious thing. I want to keep it in a painted box with a raven feather and sea-polished stones, taking it out when I feel the need to visit Minou on her island again. The best stories change you I am not the same after The Vanishing Act as I was before."

Being an Erin Morgenstern fan and loving her review of this book wasn't enough for me...

The Vanishing Act for me wa
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Pucca
Dec 27, 2015 Pucca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actual rating: 3.84
It's a really nice book with a powerful message, but some elements were missing, hence the rating. It's a pretty sad story, but perfect for the winter time.
Arielle Walker
perfectly fine little fable of a tale, just not really for me
Chris Chester
I wasn't quite as enchanted by The Vanishing Act as some other reviewers.

It's short, sparsely worded and sparsely populated, giving it an airy, magical feel. Given the limited canvas that Jakobsen was working with then, it's a little disappointing that her characters are lacking in depth, adhering more to the rough shapes and outlines in a children's book.

At the same time, Jakobsen, a student of philosophy, seems to be trying to broach very adult topics. I have a suspicion that this novel was i
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TheBookSmugglers


“Philosophers step back and look at the big picture.”
“That is not what Mama does.”
“No,” Papa agreed.
“She says the tiniest brush stroke matters.”
“But sometimes, my girl, when you look in such detail, you lose the big picture.”

Minou lives on a tiny isolated (and nameless) island alongside her wannabe philosopher-fisherman Papa, the heartbroken magician Boxman, the pretzel-making Priest and the dog No-Name. Only one person is missing: Minou’s Mama, who disappeared one year earlier after she le
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Alison Kennedy
Feb 11, 2013 Alison Kennedy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I just didn't get this. I'm sure it was one giant metaphor for loss but it just felt overly lengthy and lacking in any kind of plot!

All this philosophical discussion versus imagination. The setting was a horribly isolated and cold island (my worst nightmare - cold and hardly any people!). The father figure seemed a bit less than capable of bringing up a child - what with the indoctrination of philosophical thinking as the only way of seeing the world. Then there was the acquisition of a frozen
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Jean
Sep 20, 2012 Jean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Vanishing Act was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize 2012. Its opening is striking as Minou finds a dead boy in the very first sentence. The novel is written in the first person, with Minou as narrator and we are introduced to life on the island through Minou's eyes. It is nearly a year since her mother disappeared, and Minou believes that her mother will come back to the island. The island is remote; the only other persons on the island are Minou’s father, Boxman (and his dog No Na ...more
Blair
The Vanishing Act is the fairytale-like story of Minou, a young girl who lives on a tiny, remote island with her father, who considers himself a philosopher: her mother has disappeared and is believed by everyone else to be dead. The island is so small that it only has two other residents - a magician (and his dog) and a priest. The story opens with the frozen corpse of a boy washing up on the beach, and as Minou and her father wait for a boat from the mainland to retrieve the body, she examines ...more
Merilyn
Fable-like tale set on a tiny, freezing island which has an out of commission lighthouse. Young Minou lives in the lighthouse cottage with her philosophising fisherman father. Their neighbours are a gentle but mad priest (called Priest), Boxman who makes boxes for magicians and the sanest of them all, the dog called No-name. Minou's mother, a beautiful redhead, has disappeared. The others all believe she has drowned but Minou won't accept it. Minou discovers a dead boy washed up onto the beach a ...more
Jane
Sep 21, 2012 Jane rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I saw some amazing reviews of The Vanishing Act. When we received an advanced reader copy at my library, I had to give it a try. I do not see what the fuss is about. There’s not really anything about this book that I thought was good. I didn’t find it magical, delightful, spellbinding, life-changing, or anything else. It’s supposed to be a fable of some sort (the dog is named No Name, the turtle is named Turtle, the priest is named Priest, and so on) but I didn’t get it. It starts with a dead bo ...more
Lita
Apr 27, 2015 Lita rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
When I started this book I did not care for it. I found the writing style sporadic and hard to latch onto...but I am glad I stuck with it! The book centers around a young girl named Minou, who lives on a very small snowy island with a cast of colorful characters. Her mother the artist, her father the philosopher, her dog "no name", and her neighbors the priest and the magician. Anyone who has ever lost a close loved one should read this book. It takes us though two stages of grief that are many ...more
Marcie
Aug 04, 2014 Marcie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book off the Staff Picks shelf of the library, and chose to take it home because it had a lovely review by Erin Morganstern, author of The Night Circus, on the back. I thought it was odd that the back of the book didn't have any kind of a summary of the plot, but after reading the book, I understand why.

There was no plot.

Parts of the book were written beautifully, and I can see why some people would love the whimsical fable aspect of it. But I found it disconcerting that the charac
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Nikki Mutch
Jun 30, 2012 Nikki Mutch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition


Loved!
Lobo
Apr 23, 2015 Lobo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
zavarba hozott ez a könyv, mert szinte görcsösen vártam, hogy elvarázsoljon, hogy valami nagy csattanó legyen a vége, a nagy igazság, vagy ha már olyan a hangulat akkor becsússzon valami kis mágikus realizmus. De ilyen szempontból csalódnom kellett. Ugyanakkor sok kérdésem maradt, amit ha a gyerekek nem is, én megbeszélném valakivel, aki olvasta. S olvasás közben meg ilyen mondatokba botlott a szemem:

– Néha – magyarázta Ládás – a szomorúságnak van valami édes, elbűvölő mellékíze. Belemar a szív
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Cleo
Here is what I said in my original review of The Vanishing Act: "It was Erin Morgenstern's blurb (she's the author of The Night Circus, one of my favorite books) which got me interested in this book. This is what she says: "This book is a precious thing. I want to keep it in a painted box with a raven feather and sea-polished stones, taking it out when I feel the need to visit Minou on her island again. The best stories change you. I am not the same after The Vanishing Act as I was before."

I don
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Thien-Kim
Sep 17, 2012 Thien-Kim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This story felt magical from Every now and again, a book whisks me away into a magical world. Within the first chapter of The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen, I felt drawn to the novel’s tiny island.

Seemingly frozen in time, the tiny island is home to a handful of people. At first glance, these folks escaped to the island because they couldn’t take the regular world anymore. There’s Priest who bakes incessantly, a magician who makes magic boxes, Papa the philosopher (who claims to be a descendan
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Gretel
Feb 04, 2014 Gretel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A book written supposedly from the perspective of a child that didn't sound at all like a child. The writing is not bad; the prose is sparse with some lovely imagery sometimes, but it is not as stunning as the other reviews are making it out to be. I feel the name-dropping of philosophers is done constantly and it is pretty unbelievable that a young child would feel so invested in the subject of philosophy. Kant or Descartes are funneled into everything in this book, be it a conversation or just ...more
Gracie Eve
I was quite disappointed when I read this book last summer after buying it in a second hand bookshop in Stratford-upon-Avon. Despite many good reviews the book has received, I for once in my life disagree. Firstly there was no plot, and every other chapter the author went back to talk about Minou's past. As the story progressed, nothing happened. It just kept going about how she longed to be with her mother. Unless there was something I did not get, I'm afraid that the story just didn't do anyth ...more
Diane S ⛄
3.5 A frigid island, an abandoned lighthouse and some very strange characters; the heartbroken magician, the pretzel baking priest, a dog called "no name" a father who is said to be the descendant of Descartes and a woman who somehow or another came to shore one day. Yet it is their child Minou who stole my heart. Twelve years old, trying to make sense of her mother disappearance, using the philosophical thinking of her father and the imagination that her mother prized so highly. All centered ar ...more
Katharine Holden
Weird and wonderful. I was put off at first by an over the top recommendation on the back cover by Erin Morgenstern the author of Night Circus, who blithered on about never being the same after reading this novel. And then it turned out to be true for me, too. It's everything: the island that is so tiny yet has a church and a bell tower, talking to the dead boy in the spare room while he waits for the delivery boat, the dog in his cardigan, the shoe funeral, the wonderful metaphor of cakes not t ...more
Diane Yannick
The writing was lyrical, mystical, poetic, just gorgeous. The setting evoked an aura that fascinated me. Minou was a well rounded young protagonist. I liked the magical feel that anything was possible.

The plotting just left me cold. I got really bored with the characters and their slow paced interactions. I kept thinking that I was missing all sorts of symbolism. When I read something like The Great Gatsby, I want to go back and rethink the symbols. Here, I didn't care enough.

What was up with t
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Andrea
Feb 17, 2014 Andrea rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Meh.

I'm sure this book had the best intentions of being whimsical and magical and lovely, but it came across as predictable and contrived.

Important questions:
1) How would Minou know about streets and shops if she was raised on a remote island, largely by a father who discouraged her using her imagination?
2) How long did it take you to figure out what had really happened with Minou's mother? I picked up on it within the first 40 pages.
3) What on earth was the point of the dead kid?

I breezed throu
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Elizabeth
I wanted to love this book. When reading an excerpt I anticipated that this would be the "one".
A book that would clear me of the "meh" slump I had been in.
This book was better than "meh" but was not a "wow".
There is some mystery and a bit of whimsy in The Vanishing Act. The setting is on a tiny island with only
four inhabitants. The author's ability lies in her creating a sensory experience. The reader is aware of the colors, smells and feel of the island. I found the book very calming to read, b
...more
Daniel Morgan
Jan 01, 2015 Daniel Morgan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Vanishing Act was recommended to me by a member of a local book club. To date, this particular club has never endorsed a book that I have failed to enjoy. So it was with due sense of expectation that I sat, in my grimy on call room at work one night and allowed myself to be carried away. I did not return until the early hours of the morning, when I unexpectedly discovered that I was finishing the novel. I say unexpected, as I found myself hopelessly lost in the fairy tale writing, which read ...more
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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.
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“It's important to daydream... It's important to let your mind travel.” 13 likes
“It is in the heart and not in the words - not even in the most beautiful ones - but in the heart, in the skeleton bird pushing against your chest, wanting to fly, that we know for certain who and what we love. That is all we have, and all there is.” 11 likes
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