Sophia Tobin’s third novel is a gothic thriller with shades of Jane Eyre, Jamaica Inn and Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith. Annaleigh has accepted the position of housekeeper at White Windows in Yorkshire. Determined to begin anew, she is shocked to discover that White Windows is much more remote than she had anticipated, that the servants are truculent and the owners mysterious. Brought up in bustling Victorian London, Annaleigh was a foundling raised by a painter and his wife. She had anticipated a different life, believing herself to be part of Mr Calvert’s family, but when love seemed to blossom between his stepson and his adopted daughter, Mr Calvert was happy to have Annaleigh move away. Brokenhearted and apparently without family, Annaleigh quickly becomes fascinated by her darkly mysterious new employer, Mr Twentyman.
The parallels between The Vanishing and Jane Eyre are obvious: the educated young woman fallen on hard times, the brooding hero, the gothic setting of the big house and the remoteness of the Yorkshire Moors, but what could easily be a pastiche becomes in the careful hands of a skilful writer a wonderful homage and a clever reworking. Also, and perhaps more importantly, Sophia Tobin has addressed the issue of women’s lack of rights in the period and the power and manipulation that men wielded to control them. Either as daughters, wives, or servants, women were essentially property without rights to their own bodies, their belongings or their children.
A fast-paced and wonderfully written gothic thriller which will appeal to Brontë fans and anyone who enjoys Victorian mysteries, this clever and insightful book should bring Sophia Tobin to both literary and popular acclaim.