Recently widowed and rendered penniless by her Ponzi-scheming husband, Julia Bishop is eager to start anew. So when a stranger appears on her doorstep with a job offer, she finds herself accepting the mysterious yet unique position: caretaker to his mother, Amaris Sinclair, the famous and rather eccentric horror novelist whom Julia has always admired…and who the world believes is dead.
When she arrives at the Sinclairs' enormous estate on Lake Superior, Julia begins to suspect that there may be sinister undercurrents to her "too-good-to-be-true" position. As Julia delves into the reasons of why Amaris chose to abandon her successful writing career and withdraw from the public eye, her search leads to unsettling connections to her own family tree, making her wonder why she really was invited to Havenwood in the first place, and what monstrous secrets are still held prisoner within its walls.
WENDY WEBB's novels are mysteries about long-buried family secrets, set in big, old haunted houses on the Great Lakes.
THE END OF TEMPERANCE DARE (2017, Lake Union) is set in a former tuberculosis sanatorium on Lake Superior, now a renowned retreat for artists and writers. When Eleanor Harper takes the helm as its new director and her first batch of visiting artists arrives, she begins to suspect this isn't going to be the restful retreat she thought it might be.
THE VANISHING (2014, Hyperion) is the story of Julia Bishop, who takes a job as a companion for a famous novelist, who the entire world thinks is dead. When she travels to the novelist's remote estate, she begins to suspect her too-good-to-be-true job offer is exactly that.
THE FATE OF MERCY ALBAN (2013, Hyperion) is an Indie bestseller. It's the story of Grace Alban, who returns home after 20 years when her mother dies under questionable circumstances on the very day she (the mother) planned to reveal the truth about a tragedy that occurred during a party at Alban House long ago. A packet of old love letters and a lost manuscript by a famous novelist lead Grace to the haunted truth about what really happened that day.
Wendy's first novel, THE TALE OF HALCYON CRANE (2010, Holt) was an IndieNext Pick, a Great Lakes Great Reads Pick and a Midwest Connections Pick. It won the prestigious Minnesota Book Award for genre fiction in 2011, and was a finalist for Le Livre de Poche's Prix des Lecteurs award in France in 2012.
this is a good rainy-day ghostie story. it isn't going to scare you overmuch, or be too intellectually challenging, and there are going to be times when you scratch your head over some of the situations, and say to yourself "but why wouldn't…. and why would….?? and what about…?" but that would just be you not approaching this book with the right attitude, so shame on you.
this is an unwind in the bath with a mug of wine book (yes, a mug. slippery bath hands with delicate stemware is a recipe for glass-bath), a curl up on a windowseat during a downpour kind of book, a onesie and hot cocoa book. it's just pure, leisure escapist reading. and in her acknowledgments, the author more or less says the same thing, which made me really happy:
With my novels, I'm not trying to define a generation, right any great wrongs, or change the way you think about the world or your place in it. I just want to craft a good story that will delight you, entertain you, grab you and not let go, and send some shivers up your spine along the way. As I'm writing, I really do think of you curling up after a long day with a cup of tea or a glass of wine and one of my novels.
which is such a charming and genuine thing to say, and i really appreciate that.
so as a book to read during a crowded holiday-shopper-packed subway commute (which is exactly the opposite of relaxing wine-bath, but requires the same kind of casual distraction), it was just the thing to take me away for a time.
big house, big dogs, big ghosts, big love. check, yeah!!
One of my favorite past times for the coldest darkest evenings of this time of year is curling up with a mug of hot chocolate, a heavy soft blanket and a spooky story that presents Dark mysteries.
After Julia Bishop's husband swindles millions from strangers and friends alike in a Ponzi-scheme and then kills himself, leaving her alone to face the consequences of his heinous. actions, Julia wants nothing more than to disappear and get a fresh start. When Adrian Sinclair arrives on her doorstep and offers her the opportunity to do just that by coming with him and serving as his mother's companion, she jumps at the chance. Sure it's a little disconcerting that Amaris Sinclair, the famous horror novelist who Julia has always idolized and everyone believes has been dead for years, has instead been living in a secluded estate in the middle of the wilderness near Lake Superior, but this chance to leave her past behind might not happen again. Besides what possibly could go wrong.
As it happens it doesn't take Julia to realize that the beautiful estate Havenwood and it's various occupants are hiding quite a bit. She can't shake a distinct feeling of deja vu around every corner and everyone seems to be too nice, accomodating and familiar. The figures in the paintings seem to whisper to her, and strange visions keep presenting themselves. Julia cannot decide if she is hallucinating or Havenwood is actually haunted.
As more and more strange occurences keep happening. Julia demands answers from Amaris, Adrian and the charming man due to inherit Havenwood, Drew McCullough, she discovers a Dark and ominous presence that also resides at Havenwood, one that reaches far back into Julia's family history and one that her presence has once again awakened.
Julia is recently widowed and penniless, and wants a fresh start. A rich stranger offers her a "too good to be true" job as a live in caregiver to his mother, the famous horror novelist, Amaris Sinclair. The Sinclair's are an eccentric family who live at an enormous and isolated estate. The mansion is haunted and holds secrets. Julia becomes suspicious there were other motives for bringing her here to this mansion, and she is not sure who she can trust. This is a gothic tale full of eerie and ghostly atmosphere. Ghosts and apparitions are plenty. I highly enjoyed it and do recommend.
This was a true gothic ghost story and a nice homage to Daphne DuMaurier and Victoria Holt with a smidge of Stephen King. The setting of a haunted manor in northern Minnesota was well done and the characters were appealing, and I especially enjoyed the dogs.
A) The ability to suspend all logic, reason and judgement regarding the character's decisions. B) A love of the phrase "my dear" because it is used 7,458 times. C) A desire to internally scream with frustration because no one in this book ever completes a conversation. D) A desire to believe that anyone over the age of 7 would accept a conversation never being completed. E) An unquestioning acceptance that a grown woman would accept so many placating comments and proverbial pats on the head to extend the story. (Side note: if Julia had demanded a complete answer the very first day this book would have been 54 pages tops.) D) The gift to roll your eyes and read at the same time...it's an important skill with this book.
Julia Graham is recently widowed and looking to start her life over. When she is approached by a stranger with an opportunity to act as a caretaker for his Mother, Amaris Sinclair. Julia is intrigued by the offer. His Mother, Amaris is a famous author who the world believes died ten years ago. She is alive and well and living in a beautiful estate.
When Julia arrives at the estate which has a lot of history, she hears children singing but there are no children in sight. She also quickly observes that Amaris Sinclair does not really need a caretaker. Why has she been invited to come work at Havenwood and what is really going on at the estate?
I think this book had the potential to be a really good haunted house book but somewhere along the way it just lost it's momentum for me. The book is touted as being a Gothic ghost/haunting story. In this we have a Victorian estate in the middle of nowhere with a long family history. But in all honesty, those were the Gothic factors. When I think Gothic, I think of Daphne Du Mauier's books "Rebecca" or "My Cousin Rachel" For me, this book has Gothic elements but didn't feel Gothic. Just my opinion. This book also failed to be creepy. It didn't really shock or scare me. There were some twists and revelations that moved the story along but nothing that really said "WOW" to me. Initially this book sucked me in but as I said it lost me a little along the way.
This book is a fast read so perfect when you have some down time or a plane trip. There is nothing really complex going on with the plot.
Not sure about the ending and by that I mean the epilogue. On one level I really like epilogues on another level, I wonder what they can add to the story. With this book I really don't know what to think.
I received an advance copy of this novel via NetGalley and was so excited to dive in, only to be sorely disappointed. The quality of the writing and the lack of characterization made this one painful to struggle through. I hit the 30% mark and finally gave up. I was able to accept the premise — woman who is some how tied to mysterious gothic residence is invited back and unravels past truths, etc. but the grammar, oh my! The prose definitely does not flow. And let’s be real, the whole premise of the plot was too nicely tied up with a bow from the start. A strong pass at the bookstore, but consider picking it up from the library? … Maybe?
Awful. I don't remember the last time I read a book so heavy with cliches. The protagonist, Julia, is by turns naive enough to accept the first explanation that occurs to her (which is usually dreadfully simple) and occasionally sensible enough to be weirded out by various supernatural phenomena taking place at the mansion in the middle of nowhere, where she has accepted an invitation to surrender her identity entirely and give herself to a family of utter strangers. Sometimes she understands that she's hearing ghosts, other times she assumes that she's hallucinating as a symptom of antidepressant withdrawal (I would be offended if it weren't so ridiculous). The end is obvious from miles away, and the plot borrows heavily from every ghost story you've ever read or seen. which isn't even the worst thing about this book; the prose is flat and boring, with Julia asking questions out loud that she just asked herself verbatim two sentences before, and subtlety is completely absent. Disappointing.
Wendy Webb's 2014 novel is atmospheric, with aspects of exceptional creativity. Four stars account for a delay before mysteriousness gears up and a minor but persistent issue. The protagonist's "stomach churns" in every scene. If editors don't cover redundancy, I ought to put out a shingle! I have an eagle eye for logic, like Julia not having many dresses. If someone offered to move everything I wished, wouldn't I pack all belongings, especially clothes?
It is clear that Julia's memory falters for medical reasons and that the Minnesota mansion-dwellers know her. She does dally in sorting out the obvious but readers congratulating themselves for observing that, need to cool it. We couldn't know who Julia is, nor any detailed events. This novel does not let us coast comfortably because the hosts' secretiveness with Julia is shifty. This divided anxiety seems to detract from the spooky story the majority of us hoped to find. The extrasensory matters, wonderfully subtle and eerie when they begin to emerge, would be more powerful if we weren't waiting to confirm that we can trust the hosts. I believe a mystery about spirits and two fateful nights, from two generations, would be exciting enough.
I love Wendy's premise of a famous authoress living in secret and we aren't disappointed by her reason for "The Vanishing". I certainly love that Julia published a novel and is invited to live with this family under that pretext. The Minnesota wilds are a character in itself that Wendy paints well and which I can picture perfectly well. When she describes beatific forestland that borders Canada, with deep snow and cool winters; I am on that Canadian side, a little ways more north! Phyllis A. Whitney was queen of strong regional settings but Wendy has a good shot at that stature.
The age of spiritualism, a mansion and extensive grounds built by a Scottish Laird, seances attended by all the big names of the time including Charles Dickens and Conan Doyle, and a beautiful medium named Seraphin. Something goes wrong and something horrifying is released.
The future, House and grounds still intact, yet echoes from the past never die, as Julia who arrives fleeing her past, finds when she arrives as a caretaker to a famous, author thought to be dead.
Some of the conversations I thought were a bit awkward, and a few of the decisions Julia made had me shaking my head, but when reading these types of books a certain amount of rationality must be suspended> I mean who am I to say how I would act if strange things in a house were after me? Fun, slightly chilling foray into the dark side. Easy read, enjoyable, loved unraveling what was going on with the house and its inhabitants.
Mostly because up until about page 270 (out of 290), it was a great book. The atmosphere of Havenswood was really captivating, and I felt that Julia was a real gothic heroine. There was a labyrinth type house, subtle ghosts and unease, and a dark mystery. The twist developed really well, even though the pace suffered a bit in the second act, and everything seemed to make sense as the story progressed.
So what went wrong? The ending. Julia finds out the truth, who she is really is, what really happened to her 10 years ago, and she overcomes the shock of this in a page and banishes the ghost that no one before her has been able to with an ability she didn’t realise she had until recently. This took two pages. Literally two pages. The evil ghost terrorising the home was banished so easily it didn’t really seem to matter. Was this ghost really a threat? Sure he was changing the atmosphere in the house and creating some quite vivid horror imagery, but he never really poses a physical threat to anyone in the home other than scaring them. He was not the same ghost released in the séance, who almost killed a child, and people had been living at the home since the séance 10 years ago and he hasn’t been that much of a problem.
Then there was the epilogue. While interesting and a little bit shocking, but at the same time a little bit jarring. Then there was the Poe quote at the end; All that we see or seem / Is but a dream within a dream. Is that what the whole story was? The machinations of an insane woman who is living in an abandoned Havenwood but imagining all the people and things around her? Maybe I missed something, some clue earlier in the book that it was not real. It just seemed so jarring and perhaps even tacked on at the end just to hype up the unease factor.
I loved the Gothic elements, and the way it was written really seemed to stir up the right atmosphere and hold just the right amount of tension. It’s just a shame about the ending really, because while I would have said this was a four star book up until page 270, that ending was really disappointing and then the epilogue was just confusing, it may have lowered this by a whole star. Or maybe I should just mark it on averages…..in which case it would be a four.
Wendy Webb has a fantasy. She sees an older version of herself, character Amaris Sinclair, in a castle in the woods with a young version of herself, Julia Bishop. Both ladies are horror writers, in need if a place away from the public eye. They both need to Vanish.
How does this book suck? Let me count the ways!
To start, the main character Julia is the quintessential helpless woman. Her dead husband has left her life in ruin and she is has retreated into her home away from the public eye in a depression. The first figurative knight in shining is Adrian Sinclair, son of the writer Amaris. Here is the big not-so-secret to the reader, the public has believed Amaris to be dead the past 10 years.
After Julia arrives at Havenwood, the aforementioned castle in the woods, the cliches come tumbling out page after page: a haunted old mansion, a recluse keeping a secret, a weak woman who just doesn't believe the things she sees and hears, psychics and seances, and ridiculously named magical artifacts. What I write ridiculous, I mean laughable. "The Devil's Toy Box." Who the hell would find that scary?
The Vanishing is written in a clumsy, first-person narrative that leaves a lot to be desired. If the main character/narrator, Julia, had depth or gave any subject serious though, it may not have been so bad. When she asks herself questions, which she does a lot throughout, I wanted to answer her each time with, "Because you're a stupid bitch, Julia!"
Most of the tale is wrapped up in the all-too-neat bow, but there are a few points of ambiguity that are more annoying than mysterious, as I believe the author intended. I cannot say anything more about that without spoilers, so find out yourself, if you must.
Be sure to visit my Favorites Shelf for the books I found most entertaining.
Great atmosphere, decent writing, entertaining, quick-paced, but not horror—more mystery. And I didn't get a gothic vibe at all. Quick ending, maybe a little too easy considering the lengthy buildup. Gorgeous book cover.
In this entertaining read, author Wendy Webb links the modern with the gothic, and comes up with an atmospheric ghost story. When we meet our heroine, Julia Bishop, she is in hiding. Her husband had been found guilty of a fraud which swindled hundreds out of their life savings and then committed suicide. Ostracised, blamed and confused, she faces losing her house and possibly her liberty. Salvation arrives in the form of the debonair Mr Adrian Sinclair, who arrives on her doorstep with a proposal. His mother, Amaris Sinclair, was a well known horror author. The world believes her dead, but she has, in fact, retreated to her estate – Havenwood – near the Canadian border. Mr Sinclair suggests that Julia become her companion and, feeling she needs to escape, Julia agrees. She is a little concerned when he tells her to leave behind anything which can identify her, but she knows that she needs to leave no trail which can help her be traced by the press.
Havenwood is the archetypal gothic mansion and, before long, Julia is beginning to feel that things are not right. The house is full of whispers, but are they real or imagined? What happened in this house so long ago, which left Amaris Sinclair hiding from the world? More than that, what made the Sinclairs really bring Julia to Havenwood and what do they, and the house, want from her? This is a very enjoyable novel. I did not find it scary, but I did find it extremely interesting. I think it will appeal to those who enjoy an old fashioned ghost story, with good characters and an atmospheric and creepy setting. There is a delicious, snowed in, isolated feel about it, which would make it a perfect read on a cold, winters evening. I have not read anything by Wendy Webb before, but I am sure that I will be looking for more of her books.
Every now and then a girl needs to read a good old fashioned ghost story...and that's exactly what The Vanishing is. If eerie creeps you out, then don't pick this one up. But I enjoyed the castle in the Northwoods, not only because I know the area but because the tale kept me guessing. The writing wasn't stellar--I didn't highlight any pretty sentences--but intriguing enough that the characters stuck with me to wish my day would move along a little faster so I could read at night. This would be a great autumn read.
This was a Daily Deal but worth a credit. A young woman, Julia Bishop, finds herself desolate after her husband is uncovered as a blue collar thief and instead of jail he cowardly chooses suicide. Shortly after her loss, a man of wealth appears at her door, she of course is suspicious, however, is intrigued and allows him to complete his explanation and proposal. He makes an offer that would entail her moving away from her life and coming to live in a mansion, on the Canadian boarder, where she would be a companion to his mother, a famous writer who was thought to be dead. She would have a safe haven where she could leave her disaster of a life behind with the hope of sometime in the future starting a completely new one. Needless to say she can't really find any reasonable reason to refuse.
Upon her arrival she is introduced to the house, his Mother, the caretaker and three enormous, well trained Malamutes. Almost immediately Julia starts to see apparitions, some malevolent and some whom she is not frightened by at all. She starts to wonder why she is the only one who can see them and why they all seem so familiar, not only them, but the house and people as well.
As stories are revealed about the house she just becomes more tentative and has an overwhelming need to get away but at the same time is pulled towards the house, and feels herself falling in love with the main characters. An exceptional ending, paced correctly and the epilogue knocked my socks off. I instantly went in search of the next book, but am sad to say there is no sequel. Xe Sands does an exceptional job narrating, as always, she adds a little something extra to the flow and feel to the story. This is a great spook, mystery that builds to a pinnacle ending. A perfect Halloween read.
Oh, man. I hate to be harsh, but this book was.... not good.
The premise is great, and if I wrote out the story in an outline form, it wouldn't be too bad. But the characters do not do things that real people do—and my assessment does take into account that this is a ghost story, so people might do weird things. Even given that, nope.
The story is a first-person account told by Julie, the heroine, and she has no defining characteristics at all. I can't tell you anything about what kind of person Julie might be, so it's impossible to feel any emotions when things happen to her—and the stuff that happens to her is inexplicable. Not in a "oh, this is ghost story so there are unusual happenings." It's in a "this book has not internal logic" kind of way.
But... in spite of my criticisms, I finished it—and in less than two days. It was a page-turner—I really did want to know where it was going—but at the end, it kind of went nowhere. And the Epilogue?! Just no.
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Julia Bishop is left alone and completely destitute when her husband commits suicide after it was discovered he had swindled out all their family and friends out of their life savings with a Ponzi scheme. She’s accused of being a co-conspirator in her husband’s shady dealings and is left friendless as well. Unexpectedly a man arrives on her doorstep to offer her a job taking care of her mother, the well-known but presumed dead author Amaris Sinclair. Accepting this job would also allow her to vanish from her current life issues so she readily accepts not truly understanding why she is being trusted with this job.
‘The truth finds its way into the light, no matter what you’ve done to contain it.’
There is little to say about this novel for fear of giving away spoilers. The Vanishing lacks in complexity but makes up for it in riveting storytelling. It often requires a suspension of disbelief because of the incredulity of much that occurs within these pages. For the better part of this novel, I found myself enthralled. A beautiful house in the middle of nowhere with a story all its own. A group of people with secrets. An unreliable narrator that puts everything into question. I love a good Gothic novel and I was well overdue. I greedily consumed the pages eager for the much anticipated twist that is a critical part of any Gothic novel. And that’s where I was left feeling cheated and completely dissatisfied. Simply put, my suspension of disbelief was pushed to excess and rationality intervened. As the author states at the end:
‘With my novels, I’m not trying to define a generation, right any great wrongs, or change the way you think about the world or your place init. I just want to craft a good story that will delight you, entertain you, grab you and not let go, and send some shivers up your spine along the way.’
The Vanishing did entertain me and there was the occasional shiver. Unfortunately, the ending was an unsatisfactory conclusion to an exiting tale that left me perplexed and discontented. As a whole, this was a very enjoyable novel and I can still honestly say that I’m glad to have read it.
It's been ages and a half since I read a really good ghost story but The Fate of Mercy Albin, also by Wendy Webb, was recommended to me and suddenly I remembered how much fun this type story could be.
In The Vanishing you have all of the hallmarks needed for the perfect gothic tale: a haunted Victorian mansion, a writer long thought dead, not one but two mysterious men and a woman who is in trouble and looking for a safe haven. Who ever runs to a haunted mansion looking for peace and safety? I don't know, but you cannot have a fun ghost story without all of the "props" now can you?
Webb does a fine job of fleshing out her characters, she really always does. At times they feel a bit contrived but you do get a sense of who they are. The reason for a lower rating - 3 rather than 4 stars- is because of the story itself. This one felt too rushed and hurried and the ending came so quickly that I felt cheated. It was as if she literally just ran out of things to say in the middle of the book; she had the beginning, the characters, the plot and the ending but couldn't figure out what to do with them in the middle. Even the seance scene was tepid. Yet despite these foibles the story itself is "good."
If you want a quick, light read, nothing that will tax your brain, then this will be a good fit.
This is my first time reading Wendy Webb and I am now adding her to my list of go-to authors.
The Vanishing takes place in a creepy atmosphere -- just look at that cover! As Julia agrees to accept an unexpected job offer, we encounter an eerie mansion and unusual situations. The dialogue, however, seems a bit awkward at times but not enough to take away from my enjoyment of the story. This book has its scary moments, but I would not describe it as horror. In my opinion, this is more of a slow burn with a very satisfying ending. It was a good kickoff to the beginning of my spooky season reading.
This was the first book I've won through the First Read Giveaways on goodreads, and I am so pleased that I truly enjoyed it.
“The Vanishing” tells the tale of Julia Bishop, a woman who is offered a wonderful escape from the nightmare her life has become since her husband bamboozled millions from their family and friends, then subsequently committed suicide to avoid punishment. Adrian Sinclair, the son of famous (long thought dead) horror author Amaris Sinclair, offers her the opportunity to become a companion of sorts for his mother at their Minnesota home of Havenwood.
Shortly after arriving, Julia discovers that all is not as it seems, and things that go bump in the night don’t always go away with the lights turned on. The sordid history of Havenwood, the past of Amaris Sinclair, and even the life story Julia believed about herself are woven to create a good little read that will keep a reader entertained for hours.
My immediate positive impressions upon finishing the book are that Webb did a wonderful job foreshadowing in the beginning of the novel, allowing the book to play out to a mostly satisfying end. The characters were well-written, aside from a little too much drama elicited from Amaris Sinclair. I truly enjoyed the tale, and finished it in less than a day.
The negative points of the novel are few, but still make this novel a worthwhile read. Character narration could have loosened up a bit. Amaris Sinclair was dropping “My dears” and “Darlings” all over the place, which by halfway through the book could have used a rest. The epilogue had me question the entire ending. I don’t want to publish any spoilers, so all I will say is the last three pages of the novel makes one want to re-read the whole story again to see if there was anything missed…
Bottom line, this is a good story with good writing. I will definitely read Webb’s preceding two novels, “The Fate of Mercy Alban” and “The Tale of Halcyon Crane”.
I listened to the audiobook. the story was really intriguing but there were times when I was really aggravated with Julia but I didn't not like her. I liked all the characters and I liked the setting. the book kinda ended the way I thought it would? overall, I liked the book. it just had some minor annoyance.
I enjoyed most of this story a lot. I liked the creepy gothic atmosphere and the constant state of confusion I was in as I tried to figure out what was happening in this novel. I was eager to reach the conclusion so my questions would be answered. Seeing the details unfold within the last few chapters, I felt mostly satisfied, although the end, prior to the epilogue, felt a little too rushed after so much buildup. Perhaps the author let it fall flat intentionally, as she had one more surprise for the reader up her sleeve.
It was the epilogue, unfortunately, that made me begin to question how I felt about the story. I think it can be interpreted a number of ways so my own perspective might not match someone else’s. While I don’t mind open-ended conclusions, the implications of what this led me to believe made me very sad. And if my interpretation is as the writer intended, I can’t say that I liked what was done at all. It’s not that it didn’t add value to the twisty nature of the book. It is simply a storytelling device that I find bothersome. I’m being vague so I don’t spoil anything for you. I’ll just say that another author did something similar in one of his books, although he was clear about his intent, while The Vanishing leaves room for argument, and even though I really hated what he chose to do with that story, I still think he is a fantastic author. My view on what feels insensitive from where I stand doesn’t change the fact that Wendy Webb writes well and knows how to create an engrossing story.
It’s difficult to settle on a rating for this one. I’m giving it three stars, although I’d consider most of my experience with the story to be a four star read. My upset over the ending has affected my view but I also want to be fair to the work, as a whole. I am sure I’ll read more by Wendy Webb in the future. I do love ghost stories and all of her books look appealing.
Spoiler-free summary: Juila Bishop’s life has fallen apart: Her husband, a sociopath who committed fraud, has killed himself, her parents are dead, her friends have abandoned her, and she can’t shake the paparazzi who want a glimpse of what she’s become. It is in this dark period of her life that Adrian Sinclair, son of world-famous horror novelist Amaris Sinclair, approaches Julia with an interesting preposition - He can make her bleak, embarrassing past disappear. All she needs to do is follow him to the isolated Havenwood estate and keep his aging mother company. Julia accepts, hoping to leave her dark past behind, only to find that, perhaps, there is a greater darkness in store for her within the walls of the stately mansion.
Reading this novel in the winter was a fantastic experience. Wendy Webb’s descriptions of the snowfall and wilderness surrounding Havenwood were beautiful and encouraged me to appreciate the cold, horrible weather I have been trying so hard to ignore. This is definitely the right time of the year to read this book.
I loved that so much of this novel concerned the literary. Amaris Sinclair, the matriarch of the house, is an eccentric horror writer. Julia, our protagonist, is a writer herself and is drawn to the sprawling library of Havenwood. (Speaking of which – that library sounds incredible!). There is just something satisfying about reading a novel in the wintertime about a novelist in the wintertime. Did that sentence make sense? I don’t know.
The Vanishing is billed as horror, but it never managed to frighten or surprise me. I thought that Julia was too slow in realizing what was going on around her and didn’t ask enough questions. When she was asking questions, they felt like the wrong ones. It was frustrating and I felt that a lot of Julia’s inability to understand what was going on around her was a ploy for the author to drag out the suspense for a few more pages. I could tell where this was going, so why couldn’t she!? I was unable to accept her reasoning and this made the premise unbelievable, and therefore, unscary. I was so bored with the characters that I hoped something horrible would happen to them and they could go away.
There also seem to be a lot of recycled phrases and dialog in this book. How many times is someone going to give Julia a look so tender that she almost bursts into tears? (At least three). How many times can Amaris say “darling” or “dear?” (I can’t even count).
In the Acknowledgements, Wendy Webb says, “I’m not trying to define a generation, right any great wrongs, or change the way you think about the world or your place in it. I just want to craft a good story that will delight you, entertain you, grab you and not let go…” I think that this is an excellent representation of The Vanishing. It’s fun and fast, a nice holiday read, but it lacks the depth of a novel with more staying power.
The potential for a deeper, perspective-shifting novel is there – the ideas of the past repeating itself and people being connected in ways deeper than physicality are thought-provoking and terrifying on their own – but, the narration is casual and the characters are shallow.
Buy The Vanishing January 21st, 2014 in paperback or ebook format from Amazon.
A brilliant story brought to life by a talented and engaging narrator, this book deserves a better blurb!
Full of twists and turns, I didn't want the story of Havenwood, the Sinclairs and Drew & Julia to end. I hope there is a sequel, although I don't see how it could happen. The author presented characters real enough to breathe, and apparently bleed. The setting was a complete character as well, with a dark, fully fleshed out background of its own.
Can I have Havenwood without its wraith-inhabitants? To say I loved this book is an understatement. Can I give it ten stars?
The pairing of story and narrator was perfect. I couldn't get enough and was quite sorry when the novel drew to a close.
This was a fun ghost story from Webb that kept me interested and turning the pages. It's told from the point of view of Julia, who is at wit's end after her husband kills himself and is found to be a con man ala Bernie Madoff and has cheated most of their friends out of their life savings. Then a stranger named Adrian Sinclair appears at her door and offers her a new life taking care of his mother, Amaris, who is also a famous author who Julia thought dead. But instead she has merely vanished from fame and Adrian promises he can do the same for Julia. Since all of her friends have abandoned her and may be coming after her with lawsuits, Julia agrees to go with Adrian to Havenwood, the Sinclair's magnificent estate in the wilderness near Lake Superior. The estate was built by a rich fur trader named Andrew McCullough centuries earlier and contains many secrets that haunt its vast halls. As soon as Julia arrives, she starts to hear whisperings and sees visions of spirits that seem to come out of some of the paintings on the walls. So is Julia hallucinating or are spirits haunting the estate? She is off her depression medication and hallucinations may be a result. But why has she really been brought to Havenwood? And how is Seraphina, a psychic who conducted a very dangerous seance years before, a big part of the mystery? As the novel progresses, there are many twists to the story and all is definitely not what it seems.
I enjoyed this one quite a lot. A good novel to read in the fall close to Halloween. I have read one other book by Webb, THE TALE OF HALCYON CRANE, which I thought was also a good ghost story. I have a few of her other books on my TBR stacks that I'll be reading sometime soon.
I struggled for a little while when trying to decide how to rate and review this novel. If you are a Gothic horror fan then this will likely please the part of you that craves old houses and things that go bump in the night. Still, I definitely think you have to be someone who can suspend your desire for reality to fully enjoy this book.
The main character begins the story by having lost everything, including her husband, her friends and is about to be arrested for something she didn't do and lose her home all in one swipe of bad luck. I get how she ended up making some of the decisions she did, but there were times when I thought out loud "How stupid is this woman, for heaven's sake." I am judgmental, we know this...but I almost felt at times like I was seeing two different personalities emerge from the same character. One who was rational and thought things through and another who just made rash dumb decisions and accepted anything and everything she was led to believe.
Other than that, this is a well written, engaging and fun story that actually scared me enough to make me look over my shoulder a couple of times. Might not want to read this alone, at night, in an old house, like I chose to do if you want to sleep later that night.
Wendy Webb is a new author for me, but I will definitely check out more of her books after this one. She has a careful way of building suspense from the very beginning of her novel and ensuring that it lasts until the very end. One of the things that set this book apart from other recent Gothic tales I've read, is that the present and past in this story are merged to where one truly affects the other. I love when an author is so good at spinning a back story for their characters that you feel as if you have known them for a long time, and this author did that.
I was impressed by the pacing of the story. There were rises and falls, major events and minor ones and I was always so curious about the big secret the author kept nearly revealing that this book kept me up way later than I intended to stay up.
Amaris Sinclair was certainly a character to be reckoned with, one of my favourites in recent books. She has a personality that makes you hope you will be like her in the future.
Even at the very end when everything has been revealed and you think you are good to start breathing again, there is one last surprise. I think you should give this one a shot. I liked it.
This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher and provided through Netgalley.