19 June 2011


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 394 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: ePenguin (April 2, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • Source: I bought it
My Take:

Helen Grant's debut novel starts off dramatically enough.
    "My life might have been so different had I not been known as the girl whose grandmother exploded".
but this dramatic tale doesn't remain the focus of the novel for long. It does force 10 year old Pia Kolvenbach to become isolated at school as the other children avoid her in case they too explode. It does mean her only friend is Stinky Stefan, Stefan Bruer, and they become constant companions.

Meanwhile little girls vanish, beginning with Katharina Linden during one of the town's celebratory parades. Then Pia and Stefan learn that history is repeating itself: these aren't the first little girls to disappear from Bad Munstereifel.

Helen Grant shows a delightful sense of humour as she weaves into the story the legends of the town of Bad Munstereifel through the stories that Herr Schiller tells Pia and Stefan in after school sessions.

THE VANISHING OF KATHARINA LINDEN is told from ten-year-old Pia's point of view although at the time of the telling Pia is about 19 years old. I have seen reviews that criticise the authenticity of the narration, because in fact the narrative voice is not that of a ten year old. I wasn't particularly worried by that.

I think two other aspects of the novel can be criticised.
First of all, I don't think Helen Grant could make her mind about her audience, in particular what age level she was writing for. In the long run it is a novel for adults, but much of it has the feel of a Brothers Grimm fairytale.
My second criticism is the roller coaster ride the reader is taken on in the final pages as the author attempts to tie all the ends together. Now the style changes and the story takes on aspects of a thriller complete with car chase.

Nevertheless a good debut novel.

My rating: 4.2

The Kindle version of the novel contains a glossary at the end, of German terms and references used in the novel. It is a perfect illustration of how good it would be if Kindle editions came with a customised thesaurus/dictionary incorporated. As it is, the reader is not aware of this extra text until after they have read the novel. In this case there is no table of contents where the existence of a glossary could be shown.

Read another review on Reactions to Reading.

Comment by the author (from Amazon)
When we moved to Bad Münstereifel in 2001 my husband was anxious that I would be bored. “You can walk from one end of the town to the other in about two minutes,” he said. Actually I found Bad Münstereifel the most fascinating place. It is like stepping into the past. There are cobbled streets and old half-timbered houses, beautiful old churches and creepy castles. I’ve always loved folk tales and legends, and Bad Münstereifel has lots of those. The stories which Herr Schiller tells to Pia (the heroine) in the book are all genuine Bad Münstereifel folk tales. They were collected and published around 1910 by a local priest called Father Krause. I came across some of the stories in anthologies and went to read the originals at a library in Düren. They were written in old-fashioned German and printed in the Gothic type that was very popular in Germany at that time, which made it extremely difficult to read them! But I persevered because it was such an amazing journey of discovery for me. There was one particular character who really stood out, and that was “Unshockable Hans”, the miller who was not afraid of anything, even witches and ghosts. There are a number of stories about him. He seemed to represent the spirit of the town–-forthright, God-fearing and intrepid. I wanted him to be a central character in my book. I liked the idea that the heroine, Pia, would be inspired by his bravery to do her own investigations into the disappearances in her home town.

About the author:

Helen Grant was born in London, England. She read Classics at St.Hugh's College, Oxford, and then worked for ten years in Marketing to fund her love of travelling. In 2001 she and her family moved to Bad Münstereifel in Germany and it was exploring the legends of this beautiful town that inspired her to write her first novel. She now lives in Brussels with her husband, two children and two cats.
Helen's debut novel "The Vanishing of Katharina Linden" was shortlisted for the prestigious British fiction award, the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2010 and won an ALA Alex Award 2011. Helen's second novel "The Glass Demon" is being published in the US in June 2011 by Delacorte Press.

Visit Helen's website and read her blog at: http://www.helengrantbooks.com/ or follow her on Twitter at @helengrantsays

Challenges I'm counting this on: British Books Challenge, e-book challenge, Cruisin' thru Cozies Reading Challenge

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kerrie - Thanks for this. I think your fine review highlights how important it is to know one's audience and I'm glad you brought that up. It sounds as though it's got some interesting aspects; for instance, I enjoy it very much when humour is woven into a book.


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