Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Vanishers by Heidi Julavits

The story I'm about to tell could be judged preposterous.

Is the beginning of the book a review about the book? I don't mind when writers establish voice early on, but it would be nice if it were in conjunction with a plot - you know, a story. Instead, we are promised something interesting. Couldn't that just have been put on the back of the book or on the cover?

The rest follows like this:

Fine. Judge how you must. Protect yourself by scare-quoting me as the so-called psychic, the so-called victim of a psychic attack. Quarantine this account however you must so that you can safely hear it. What happened to me could never happen to you.

The next paragraph begins:

Tell yourself that...

We get it already. This is an out of this world story that I will be sorry for putting down and never finishing. Let's dump the plug and get on with the story.

What follows is a POV mash-up. First person, second person and third person all jumbled together. I don't like when a writer talks to me, the reader, directly. It's a cheap attempt to pull me into the story and I resist - I'm willful that way. Plus, it sounds pretentious and snooty, almost as if the writer is talking down to the reader. If you like being talked down to, then by all means, read on.

I'm not the only one who dislikes this, as the library copy I'm using has the page folded on the first page. Who would stop a reading session and fold the page at page one? The next folded page is page three. The next after that is page fifteen.

Part one begins:

The attack, we later agreed, occurred at Madame Ackermann's forty-third birthday party.

This is a little better. But we already know about an attack from the prologue or whatever that was before, so this is reiterating, which is irritating.

First thing said:

"You know Julia."

Verdict: Fail

Rudy Globird

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