Review | Wednesday 13 July 2011
The Vanishing Act is a debut novel about how even the most isolated, snow-covered islands have their own secrets and intricacies. It is about loneliness and finding the place where you fit. It is a little bit magic, a little bit philosophical, and a little bit sad. Jakobsen has written quite an unusual novel, and I’m not quite sure where it belongs, but I enjoyed the quietness of it and remained enthralled throughout.
Minou is 12 years old. She lives on a small island – solitary in every sense of the word – with her parents, a priest, a heartbroken magician and his dog No Name. One year ago, her mama walked out into the rain with a black umbrella and a turtle and never came back. Her papa is still searching for the ultimate truth – and the only one who will listen to Minou’s own theories is a frozen dead boy, found washed up on the beach. The mystery of what happened to Minou’s mama hangs over the novel and is worked well into the narrative, with clues and back-story subtly woven into the plot. Jakobsen skilfully shows us how mama’s disappearance has affected everyone on the island. Sometimes having Minou’s papa bang on about philosophers just feels like an excuse to name drop as many ‘names’ as possible, but for the most part, his philosophical musings reveal the struggles of a broken man.
But this is Minou’s story. In her, we get all the heartbreak and delicacy of the book, the battle between reason and imagination. What Jakobsen has done so well with the characters who populate these pages is make them both fascinating and flawed, but always without judgement. She lets us arrive at our own conclusions; these characters and their island cast their own quiet spell long after the final page.
Samantha Ellen-Bound is from CAE Book Groups