Another fun article, this time featuring a strong contender for best headline ever: Psychic Snail Sex Couldn't Replace the Telegraph But One Frenchman Sure Tried
The only way I am reading books right now is in small chunks on my phone overnight, to help keep myself awake. Alas, the physical copy of Ancillary Justice that I checked out of the library has been sitting unopened on my desk; but on the other hand I have finally been reading a few of the books that have been collecting in my Kindle library.
(also I have been compulsively reading political blogs, a terrible habit I really should stop.)The Vanished Child
, by Sarah Smith, is the kind of book that could be classed as a mystery, historical fiction, or the genre-that-is-unmarked of just plain "fiction". The plot: an Austrian chemist reluctantly attends exactly the wrong conference; a 17-year-old blind pianist foolishly agrees to get married; and a very Catholic doctor dances a protracted tango with his conscience.
Less flippantly, Richard Knight, eight-year-old heir to an American Gilded Age fortune, vanishes from a New England vacation home in 1887, following the brutal murder of his grandfather. Twenty years later, the Catholic doctor, friend of the Knight family, happens to see Austrian chemist Alexander Reisden on a train platform in Switzerland, and in a dizzying moment thinks he recognizes Richard Knight. The plot turns around the dual mysteries of what happened in 1887 and whether Reisden is indeed the vanished Knight -- with the interesting twist that Reisden is the main POV character.
The realization of turn-of-the-century Boston and Boston society is stellar, the writing is lovely, and the characters are very well drawn. I got a little impatient with the style of the psychological introspection Smith's characters are prone to – due in part to the demands of the mystery plot, I think. I very much liked that two of the protagonists have a strong abstract calling – music and chemistry, variously – that, and the tensions that come up when that calling is balanced against interpersonal relationships, is something I love in fiction, and the depiction here was organic and rang entirely true. I liked this one enough I'm thinking of buying the sequel.