Monday, February 11, 2013

RANDOM REVIEW MONDAY (4): The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen

Random Review Monday is a weekly meme, run by me, Reeka at BoundbyWords. Each week, I will choose a book from the fiction shelves at work (local bookstore), by simply closing my eyes, and pointing! I will read the book within the week, and review it the following Monday. This gives me a chance to get out of my comfort zone, and hopefully find some hidden gems!


Title:                      The Vanishing Act
Author:                  Mette Jakobsen
Release Date:     June 27/2011
Publisher:           W.W. Norton & Company
Page Count:        218
Acquired:            Work Borrow
Format:              Hardcover
Read From:         Feb 7-9/2013
Goodreads:         ADD
Preorder:            Amazon/Indigo/The Book Depository

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 on the beach. Her father decides to lay him in the room that once belonged to her mother. Can her mother's disappearance be explained by the boy? Will Boxman be able to help find her? Minou, unwilling to accept her mother's death, attempts to find the truth through Descartes' philosophy. Over the course of her investigation Minou will discover the truth about loss and love, a truth that The Vanishing Act conveys in a voice that is uniquely enchanting.


What a beautiful start to a beautifully written book. The conclusion, however, left much to be desired-which I suspect, was purposefully done. Fables have a way of giving you a story without actually giving you a story-but I so desperately wanted this one to wrap up more unambiguously.

Minou is a 12-year old girl, living on an extremely remote island in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Up until the mysterious disappearance of her mother, the only residents of the island were Minou, her father, her mother, a retired magician named Boxman, his dog "No-Name, and a priest, referred to as "priest". These characters were not developed past a certain point, which was a little upsetting, considering the book revolved around specifics, or specific truths. Minou was raised with conflicting ideas: imagination vs. solid fact. Her father encouraged the ideas and teachings of famous Philosophers, while her mother leaned heavily on the freedom of imagination. It is clear that Minou grew to favour the comfort of fact, like her father-who was apparently related to the one and only, Descartes.

The book opens with the pair finding a dead boy's body washed up on the shore, they then take him back to the house and lay on him on the absent mother's bed. As the story progressed, I kept expecting the dead boy's presence to have more of a significance, but eventually, I forgot that he was even there until he was mentioned again. The story-line zigzags between the present and the past, which got slightly confusing, though it wasn't an aspect that disturbed the flow of the content too much. Minou is the only one that strongly believes that her mother is still alive, and, following her Father's favourite past-time, spends hours a day deducing and contemplating the truths she knows about the situation revolving around her disappearance.

I think I eventually gave up on this book having a solid story line, and immersed myself in Jakobsen's fantastical writing. I found myself underlining quotes like a mad women. The landscape, the dialogue, the interactions, the simple, daily tasks-it was spectacularly magical. Her writing allowed me to feel like being stuck in the middle of the ocean, on a tiny island, is the only thing I ever want to aspire to do.

I suspected the "twist" from a mile away, and was quite saddened that it didn't lead the story to anywhere but it's plain conclusion. I wanted it to mean so much more in terms of why her mother disappeared-I wanted so many things in the book to give me answers. It was a beautiful little tale, but definitely more of a filler book. Recommended as a quick, thoughtful read.


"Trust is not worth having, and can never be fully understood, said Grandfather, unless you find it yourself." -pg.22

"'Observe,' she told him. 'What you see is the universe in a tiny drop. From this you will know yourself to be the centre from which everything unfolds, all colour, all movement, everything.'" -pg.37

"'You have to know what is out there,' he said. 'The more you know, Minou, the more equipped you are to find the truth'". -pg.43

"Papa didn't know much about birds, but he knew how to repair clocks, and asked if Mama wanted hers fixed. But she didn't, she liked time standing perfectly still." - pg.47

"'It's important to daydream, Minou,' she would say, her hair spilling over the pillow. 'It's important to let your mind travel, and not hold it tight like a dog on a leash.'" pg.76-77


  1. I read this book fairly recently, and thought it was pretty good. I love the quotes you included.

    Thanks for following me. :)

    1. I actually found you because you reviewed this book =)

      Thank you so much for stopping by, I absolutely love the simplicity of your blog. I can't wait to check out some more of your reviews-you have so many!


Comment love is always appreciated! =)
I will always try my best to comment back!