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The Vanishing of Katharina Linden Paperback – 2 Apr 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (2 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141325739
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141325736
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 289,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Lightness of touch, neatness of phrase and talent for observation enliven the darkness of the material. -- The Sunday Times, April 19, 2009

Not one single moment of disappointment, not one wavering of tone, not one narrative misjudgment awaits the reader in this impressively assured debut novel. -- Achukareviews, April 20, 2009

The excellent writing, and the eschewing of anything remotely winsome or mawkish, make this an eerily subtle literary page-turner. Wonderful. -- The Guardian, March 14, 2009

Review

The excellent writing, and the eschewing of anything remotely winsome or mawkish, make this an eerily subtle literary page-turner. Wonderful.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In a nice small German town, young girls start disappearing. We experience the growing unease in town through the eyes of 11 year old Pia who is determined to unravel the mystery.
My summary may make this seem as a children's book on an adult topic. Actually, the suspense and adult writing style make it more suitable for both adults and older teenagers, who are less naive than Pia about the bad things that might happen.
This is actually a really good page-turner, far from being a generic pulpish thriller it is rather an endearing story that makes us reflect on how we perceived the world as a child, for example Pia's worry that her only real friend is the least popular boy in school, is more tangible than how she experiences the disappearances as something abstract, or an event from a cruel fairy tale. The story gets more intense, thriller-like towards the end.
The style is remarkably confident for a debut and utterly readable, with good dialogue, great filmic suspense, and several funny details (again often linked to Pia's perception), yet also poignant in the depiction of the slowly disintegrating marriage of Pia's parents: the father being a friendly level-headed German, while the British mother who never adjusted to life in Bad Münstereiffel being both manupilative and caring. This is actually a real city, and when you google it for pictures you may well conclude that the mother should do more effort to adjust, as it looks really nice. Another amusing detail is the sprinkling of a few German words throughout the text, and it's never a burden as the context or a short glossary at the end keep things clear - I think it adds character to the text. All the above make it an interesting and original work, that I think could well be translated to the screen.
In short, a recommended suspenseful book that strays from the beaten path.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This starts out really well, with the typically claustrophobic small town setting in the middle of nowhere, populated by people who seem to know everything about each other (and what they don't know, they're quick to make up). It's a safe town, where parents let their children wander freely round the streets, happy in the knowledge they are out of harm's way. That is, until one, then two, then three girls go missing. And no one can work out how it's happening or who is doing it.

Sadly, once the first girl went missing I found the story going downhill quite quickly, both in terms of how engaging it was and the style of writing. Grant describes everything, from protagonist Pia putting her rucksack on her back to go to school, to the meal she had for lunch and all the endless minutiae in between. As a reader, I'm not interested in all that. I'm interested in following Pia and her friend Stefan as they discover more about what's going on in their once safe town, and who's behind it. Everything else is inconsequential to the main event and not necessary to know in order to keep things moving. Unfortunately Grant doesn't appear to feel the same, with pages and pages given over to endless description, including the quite frankly boring folktales that Herr Schiller tells the children when they go to visit him.

Another gripe is the old fashioned feel of the whole novel. For a story that's supposed to be set in the late '90s, it feels more like it's stuck in a tired 'On the Buses' style film from the '60s.
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Format: Paperback
The Vanishing of Katharina Linden By Helen Grant

An enjoyable read from end to end - full of rich details and beautifully written.
The setting seems to truly come alive, with references to local customs and folklore alongside a real sense of place - this is not a fictional location but so real that you can almost feel the stones of the old town.
The characters are a blend of both the traditional German townsfolk, reserved and presenting an outward face of civility while harbouring long held suspicions, fear and resentment, alongside a splash of Englishness that seems to throw both cultures into contrast.
Although a child at the time of the story, the main characters narrative is told from an adult perspective, looking back at the dark events that occurred in the quiet town. This allows the language of the story to be told in a more adult way with fascinating description and wonderful detail.
The story itself touches on a subject that is truly relevant today and highlights the fear that so influences parents views of our children's safety but as it is told from a child's perspective it is all the more frightening and dark. While the adult characters struggle with truth and justice, the children challenge their fears and seek more direct answers with terrifying consequences!

Let's hope there are more books from this talented new author!
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Format: Paperback
As good as I expected, based on how much I enjoyed Grant's Forbidden Spaces books. This one is aimed a little younger (although I'd hesitate to call it a children's book), but if anything it's even more atmospheric and creepy than the Belgian thrillers.
Characters are well drawn, and local myths and legends are well integrated into the story, informing Pia's view of events. It's a real page-turner, especially towards the end, although the ending is a little strange, with the climactic scene deliberately leaving out some explanatory detail that a more conventional storyteller might have included in order to tie up all the loose ends with a neat bow. But in a way that's more interesting than spelling everything out, and perhaps is a more accurate reflection of the point of view of a ten year old protagonist who has already admitted earlier in the book that she often doesn't understand adults' motives and behaviour.
I just wish I had the edition pictured here. I ended up with a more recent Penguin edition which is covered with inappropriate pink and silver sparkles, as if this were a book about fairies or ponies or something.
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