The Vespertine (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

The Vespertine (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

3.9 41
by Saundra Mitchell

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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


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.


Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Jennifer Lehmann
In the spring of 1889, Amelia Van Den Broek is sent to live with her cousins, the Stewarts, to find a suitable husband. Baltimore provides many more opportunities for this quest than her hometown of Broken Tooth, Maine. The imagination of the city has been captured by spiritualists claiming to see the future or speak to the dead, but many have been shown to be frauds. When Amelia sees a vision that comes to pass, and its disastrous effects avoided because of her foresight, she becomes the toast of the town. She and her cousin Zora take advantage of their popularity, and the Stewarts' parlor is overrun with visitors seeking her sight. Unfortunately, her visions are not always pleasant or avoidable, and her connection to traumatic events put her and her loved ones in danger. The only one who seems to understand is Nathaniel, a poor artist, inappropriate to her station but entirely irresistible and as full of mystery as Amelia is. As Amelia develops from a naive country girl to a daring young woman aware of her own power, she remains a likeable, warm character. Readers will find themselves involved in her struggle between destiny and free will. While the first chapter introduces the plot and characters abruptly from a time after the primary action of the story, the fantastical elements reveal themselves smoothly throughout the rest of the book. A level of ambiguity in the ending, though it satisfactorily closes the book, will leave the readers pondering this story even after it is finished. Readers who enjoyed Libba Bray's "Gemma Doyle" trilogy will find this novel equally intriguing, and a similar mix of historical fiction and the supernatural. Reviewer: Jennifer Lehmann
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—This is a lush, dark Southern Gothic novel written with a richness of language that nearly smothers the tale of magic and romance at its heart. In spring 1889, 17-year-old Amelia is sent from her small Maine town to spend the year in big-city Baltimore with the intention that she will behave as a proper young lady and meet an appropriate beau. Enter the mysterious, brooding artist Nathaniel (who is not "of their set"), a boy-crazy cousin, sumptuous fabrics and bodice-baring fashions, and top it all off with Amelia's newfound ability to see portents of the future in the setting sun. The protagonist is a bit of a wet dishrag, the dramatic tragedy that Mitchell's prose so direly portends is disappointingly tame, and the titillation doesn't go beyond searing smooches. But the pervasively descriptive and evocative language combines with period vocabulary and detail to create a mood piece one would never want to deny romance-pining schoolgirls, to wit: "Though I peered yet at the sky, a warm, ornate pattern traced my skin, the traverse of his glance." The book is similar in many ways—though more fantasy than horror, and of a different era—to Mary Hooper's Newes from the Dead (Roaring Brook, 2008).—Rhona Campbell, formerly at Washington, DC Public Library

Product Details

Demco Media
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Broken Tooth, Maine
Autumn 1889


I woke in Oakhaven, entirely ruined.

The ballad notes of a quadrille lingered on my skin, remnants of a chaîne anglaise danced only in slumber. I heard a velvet voice against my cheek, and I burned in the dark and dreaming light of his eyes.

Morning had come, its watery brightness stealing shadows from the corners, but still I swayed.

Perhaps this once I could find my visions—my awful, eerie gift—without the fires of sunset. Perhaps this once I could abandon the vespers and go there on my own. To the place where I saw more than eyes could see. Where I knew more than minds could know.

Where I could be with him.

I had learned to do it for Zora, my sweetest friend—lost, and I was to blame! I couldn’t bear to wonder about her. I knew how I’d left her—wrecked and desolate, a shell because I’d cracked her open. I should have listened when she told me to bear it alone.

If some ethereal part of me counted sins, that part bore the darkest stain for the tragedy I brought her. Rocking until the floor kept time, I drew a breath elongated. I opened my arms to open my body.

If I could spill everything out, if I could but empty myself of sensation and thought, I could be filled again with the sight. If this were sunset, the visions would come. Through my mind’s eye, I would step inside someone else’s skin.

I’d walk on their legs, see with their eyes—whispers of all things to come. Until now I’d been too afraid to look for my older, wiser self. Today I whispered and rocked and rolled my eyes, hoping to see anything at all.

The need overwhelmed me, my breath rushing like wind, blood pounding in my ears—all distractions, terrible distractions. I begged through bitten lips, "Please, please, please . . ."

My skirts washed around me. I made fists of my hands, nails digging into the palms. If only pain brought clarity! Locked in this hopeless attic room, I flung myself at the desk. How viciously darling of my brother. He’d jailed me with pen and paper, but no one to write to.

I had nothing. I had no one.

Weighted by the ornate train of my gown, I climbed up. Only on my toes could I see the world outside, the first peach and plum shades of morning in the distance. Something heavy in me turned. I flattened my hands on the glass.

"Nathaniel, Nathaniel!" I cried, then seized by a terrible rage, I screamed. "How could you abandon me to this?"

I beat at the windows. I imagined my fists shattering the panes, shards making ribbons of my flesh. I tasted the blood. I felt the cold that would come of letting it course from me. This was no premonition, just dread hope.

Intention weighed my arms. I stood coiled. I meant to spring! To have it done! To end it all!

But my craven nature restrained me. The threat of pain made me a coward. I could only slap the glass uselessly. Ashamed, I pressed my brow against the wall and wept.

Then the attic door swung open.

Startled, I lost my balance entirely. The desk tipped over, and my skirts dragged me down like an anchor. In a shower of writing paper and unstoppered bottles, I fell to the floor. India ink splashed in black puddles, and my hands came up smeared with it.

August, my pale and angled brother, hauled me to my feet. His fingers bit through my sleeves, writing five hot points of pain on my flesh.

"What’s the matter with you?" he demanded.

"Nothing at all! I am fit and bright and sober as a priest."

With another shake, August asked, "Shall I send you to the sanitarium after all?"

"You should!" I shouted.

"Don’t test me, Amelia," August said, his voice rising. "I will beat the devil out of you. You have my word on that."

I couldn’t help but smile. "You can’t. You’d have to beat me dead. What will you do with your devil sister’s body, Gus? How will you explain me away?"

He answered me with a slap. It left a welt on my cheek, raised and burning, and all I could do was touch it gingerly—and laugh. Softly, but laughter all the same, for August was far more troubled by it than I.

Gray as wash water, he cast an accusing look at his hand.

I lay back, turning my eyes to the plastered ceiling to welcome a weary numbness. "Just poison my breakfast. You can call it a fever. Be done with me," I told him as I dropped to the bed.

"I doted on you once." Backing toward the door, August looked everywhere but at me. "I used to pull you about in my wagon."

"I’m much too heavy for your wagon now."

Taking out his key, August warned me as he once more locked me in, "Stay away from the windows."

Perhaps tomorrow, I thought, I shall be brave enough to put myself through them.

Meet the Author

Saundra Mitchell is a screenwriter and author. Her debut novel, Shadowed Summer, was a 2010

Edgar Award

Nominee, a Junior Library Guild selection, and an ALAN Pick. Saundra enjoys studying history, papermaking, and spending time with her husband and her two children. She lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.


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