Apparently being ‘ruined’ in the 1800s is kind of a big deal since I guess as a female your self worth revolved around your virginity, and if that ship had sailed, well you were screwed literally out of making a good match. Or at least that’s the gist I got from The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell. Amelia van der Broeck no relation to James Van Der Beek is a ruined girl aka a slattern (actually I just like the word slattern, she’s not really a slattern) who is sent from her home in Maine to the big city of Baltimore to her cousin Zora’s house where she is to enter society and find a rich husband.
Amelia finds herself flourishing in society. She gets along well with her cousin Zora, the two are almost like sisters, going to dinners and balls together, experiencing society. It is at a society dinner that Amelia meets Nathaniel Witherspoon, no relation to Reese, who is hired to be a 14th, so the table does not have an unlucky amount of 13 people. Sparks fly between the two. Eventually Amelia discovers she has a talent for premonitions which helps her to gain entryway in society, but her gift isn’t all it’s cracked up to be which we discover as the story unravels.
The Vespertine has some very pretty writing. However, I felt that the words were ‘beautiful’ for the ostensible purpose of being ‘beautiful’, and a bit of a gimmick. Now, don’t get me twisted, I see nothing wrong with flowery writing. Yet, I just couldn’t connect or get into Mitchell’s writing because it felt unnatural to me. It felt like the book was trying a little too hard to be ‘poetic’ and lofty.
Further, I thought the instant connection between Amelia and Nathaniel was a little bizarre. I realize it was later explained, but it seemed like there wasn’t enough time given for them to develop a real relationship. And yes, I do understand the whole thrill of the forbidden romance, however Nathaniel was a bit cut and dry for me. He’s artsy and bohemian and unconventional, which is great and all, but still kind of stock to me.
However, I liked the setting of The Vespertine. I love historical fiction and reading about society. Let’s face it, Baltimore society is pretty fascinating. Plus Annapolis is right up the road, which lends a little military thrill. Also, Amelia falls into Zora’s group of friends who are awesome to read about as they dance and do archery and engage in in-fighting.
However, The Vespertine lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. I never fully connected with it. I was never all that invested in Amelia. Yet, this may work for you if you are looking for poetic writing.
Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley.