On top of the Yorkshire Moors, in an isolated spot carved out of a barren landscape, lies White Windows, a house of shadows and secrets. Here lives Marcus Twentyman, a hard-drinking but sensitive man, and his sister, the brisk widow, Hester.
When runaway Annaleigh first meets the Twentymans, their offer of employment and lodgings seems a blessing. Only later does she discover the truth. But by then she is already in the middle of a web of darkness and intrigue, where murder seems the only possible means of escape…
Tell that me a novel is set in the 19th Century and features an old house on the North Yorkshire Moors and, being a huge fan of Wuthering Heights, I’m just about guaranteed to want to read it. I couldn’t therefore resist The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin.
It is 1814 and orphan Annaleigh Calvert finds herself far removed from the London she is used to when she takes up the position of housekeeper at White Windows in the North Yorkshire Moors. Brother and sister, Marcus and Hester Twentyman, appear to have offered Annaleigh the perfect escape from the difficulties she faced in London, however, it turns out that all is not as it seems and she finds herself caught up in a nightmare.
Split in to two parts and following a prologue that perfectly draws the reader in, The Vanishing begins with Annaleigh’s arrival at White Windows and it slowly builds up to the nightmare that Annaleigh is destined to find herself in. The first part is very much a slow burner but incredibly necessary to lead the reader in to the shocks that lie in wait later on. As with all small places, rumours abound about the inhabitants of White Windows. Why are the wealthy Twentymans residing in Yorkshire rather than their home city of London? Why are brother and sister residing together in almost isolation? And what exactly did happen to their previous housekeeper who mysteriously disappeared? I loved the way Tobin kept me on the back foot in this first part as, like Annaleigh, I was not sure what to make of her employers as I found myself swinging between feelings of pity, trust and mistrust. As The Vanishing progresses to its gradual inevitable conclusion it becomes clear that Annaleigh never stood a chance at White Windows.
In Marcus Twentyman Tobin has created an intriguing figure. I constantly found myself being caught between feelings of pity and warmth to fear and wariness. He is intriguing and I can’t help but compare him to Heathcliffe.
Tobin’s prose throughout is stunning and in true gothic novel style she described the colours of the moors in beautiful detail and attributes its changing colours to the mood of Annaleigh. I found myself completely wrapped up in Tobin’s words.
Part Two shocked me to the core. It touches on issues that were prevalent at the time – laudanum use, illegitimacy and the position of and treatment of women. The times were undoubtedly harsh and especially for those in Annaleigh’s position – female and of low class. I didn’t expect The Vanishing to be as brutal and heartbreaking as it is and it ended up shaking me to the core.
Dark, harsh, atmospheric and beautifully written, I loved The Vanishing. I’m so pleased I finally got around to reading it and I will be checking out Tobin’s other books. If you like historical fiction that has a touch of the gothic about it then you will love it too.
Published on 12 January 2017 by Simon & Schuster.
My thanks to Simon & Schuster and Sophia Tobin for my copy in exchange for my honestand unbiased review.