Title: The Vespertine
Author: Saundra Mitchell
Publication Date: March 7, 2011
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: eARC via Net Galley
It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.
When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.
Why this book? The setting caught my attention: late 19th century Baltimore? I’m in.
Amelia is sent to Baltimore to stay with cousins, essentially to find a husband. After living under the thumb of her brother, August, she relishes the freedom to be had in the Stewarts’ household, and the companionship of her cousin, Zora. At dinner one evening, Amelia "sees" the future — her cousin in a dress not yet made, dancing with a young man. When she first mentions it to Zora, they both treat it as a joke: Zora has a dress being made, but her young man never dances. But eventually the vision comes true. And then another. And soon Amelia is receiving calls from many people who want to know their futures.
In addition to popularity via prediction, Amelia meets a mysterious young man, Nathaniel Witherspoon. Poor and working class, he’s inappropriate as a suitor by her family’s standards, but she doesn’t care about that. She does care and is fascinated to learn that he has a paranormal gift, one quite different from hers: he can travel by wind and be called when she whispers his name to the wind.
Sadly, some of Amelia’s predictions rebound upon her, ending with her exile. (I don’t think that’s a spoiler, given the information revealed in the first paragraph of the book.)
What did I think of the book? I enjoyed it, and I think anyone who likes YA paranormals or Anna Godberson’s The Luxe series would probably appreciate the book. The narrator is impulsive and self-indulgent, which is to say she is a teenager and acts like it. She sees things, dreamlike, in the twilight, hence the name of the book. The book had a sort of frothy gothic feel to it.
Liked the use of the Baltimore "hon", arabbers, and the mention of different neighborhoods, although I do wonder if the Inner Harbor was called that back in 1889 — at that time, it was still a light freight and passenger port, not a location a young lady would expect to inquire about or visit unless in the company of her family for some business purpose.
Random editing comment: Mademoiselle Thierry would be abbreviated Mlle. Thierry, not Mme. Thierry, which is short for Madame.