- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Bantam (April 26, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 038534418X
- ISBN-13: 978-0385344180
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #241,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Vanishing of Katharina Linden: A Novel Paperback – April 26, 2011
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Helen Grant on The Vanishing of Katharina Linden
I’m often asked “What inspired you to write The Vanishing of Katharina Linden?” I never get tired of this particular question, because it’s a subject that lies very close to my heart. The book was inspired by the little town of Bad Münstereifel in Germany. It’s the setting of The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, and it’s not a fictional place-–it’s a real town, and we lived there for seven wonderful years.
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.
People sometimes ask me about the ending of the book, as it isn’t entirely a happy one for Pia, given her family situation. I think this reflects my own feelings about having to leave Bad Münstereifel. I loved living there so much, but I always knew that one day we would have to leave. That sadness is part of my love for the town, and Pia’s too. I’d like to think that The Vanishing of Katharina Linden is a memorial to a wonderful place and time in my life.
(Photo © Gordon Grant and William Bond)
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
It may seem strange to describe Grant's debut as a charming horror novel, but there's a determined amiableness about the narrative that will appeal to readers who wouldn't typically be drawn to such subject matter. It's December 1998, and 10-year-old Pia Kolvenbach and her family are living happily in the quaint German town where her father grew up, until Pia's grandmother accidentally sets herself on fire and burns to death. A rumor erupts that her grandmother exploded, and, overnight, Pia becomes an outcast. Her only friend from then on is the most unpopular boy in her class, nicknamed StinkStefan. The two of them begin visiting an elderly man who entertains them with ghost stories from local folklore that Pia and StinkStefan hope might help them solve the decades-old mystery of a number of local girls who have gone missing. The story's richness isn't as much in the mystery plot as it is in the finely rendered background, where desperate parents strive to protect their children in an uncertain world, though the simplicity of the narration makes the novel feel lighter than probably intended. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
As one can gather from the title of the book, early on a girl by the name of Katharina Linden "vanishes" which leads Pia to wonder if something supernatural happened to Katharina like the things that happen in the stories Herr Schiller tells. Combining the dark stories of witches and demons exacting revenge on townspeople in the days of yore with the very real terror that the parents in the present day town were feeling, scared their child might be next, was quite effective. I tend to read before I go to sleep at night, and when I got to the end of this novel around midnight last night (I couldn't put it down until I finished), the prospect of going straight to sleep was ridiculous. I had to get out of bed, go downstairs and watch a sitcom for half an hour before sleep seemed possible.
It was definitely a good book, and for anyone who likes books that get under your skin and spook you, you can't go wrong with this one. I'd also consider it to be one of those rare books that both adults and children can enjoy, perhaps equally, although I would be hesitant letting a very young child read it. I'd say for ages 12 and up.
The book is about Pia who wants to be the girl who solves the Katharina Linden case, not the girl whose grandmother had exploded. This book is not particularly about the disappearance of Katharina Linden but of a chain of events that has changed Pia's life in the span of a year.
Everything takes place in a small town, in which everyone knows everyone business. And, they think they know everything that is happening in their town, except for one small thing the disappearance of young girls in the town.
Pia, is a normal ten year old girl in this town, that is until Pia's grandmother dies an unexpected death, death by explosion. With everyone knowing everyones business this piece of news spread like wild fire and now Pia is the girl whose grandmother exploded. Then, girls start to go missing, and to try to wipe her name clean as the girl whose grandmother exploded Pia goes on the hunt for the missing girls with her sidekick StinkStephen.
I really enjoyed the book, it is all in Pia's point of view. Although, at the end, I felt as though maybe everything didn't all go together as nicely as it should have. Not, to give anything away, I will just say I wanted more explanations at the end.
- The Vanishing of Katharina Linden
Fairy tales, despite their intent, are not very well suited to children. Sending a tot off to sleep with images of witches throwing children into an oven, to make them the centerpiece of her dining room table, aren't really conducive to a good night's sleep.
And by good night's sleep I mean not waking up screaming in terror.
Helen Grant builds the framework of her delightful first novel around fairy tales, or rather local legends, surrounding the town of Bad Münstereifel, Germany. After the loss of her paternal grandmother to spontaneous combustion, young Pia Kolvenbach develops an image problem. Previously a happy girl with an adequate number of friends, after the unfortunate demise of her grandmother the local children do what children do best: they ostracize her to the point of complete misery.
Only a boy known as "StinkStefan" befriends her. Though it's essentially social suicide to hang out with Stefan, Pia doesn't have a whole lot of choice. Soon the two become friends, hanging out together and regularly visiting a charming elderly man, Herr Schiller, who regaled them with wild tales just frightening enough to be interesting.
The one person in Bad Münstereifel who wasn't fond of Herr Schiller was Herr Düster, the local eccentric who was everything Herr Schiller wasn't. Unfriendly and unkempt, he was universally reviled in the village. A virtual recluse, he spent most of his time hiding away in his tumble-down house, across the street from Herr Schiller.
Soon something horrible began happening in this normally quiet and uneventful village, something that eclipsed even Pia's grandmother's unusual death. Young girls in the village began disappearing, the first being Katharina Linden, who disappeared during "Karneval," a time when all the villagers dressed in costume. Pia's last memory of the girl was seeing her dressed as Snow White, standing beside the fountain:
"When she vanished, it almost seemed like something from a fairy tale, as though she were one of Grimms' twelve dancing princesses, who somehow got out of a locked bedroom every night and came home in the morning with their shoes worn to flinders. But Katharina never came home at all."
As girl after girl disappeared, Pia's English mother vehemently insisted the family move to England and away from the danger. Her father refused, his job and livelihood keeping him in Germany. Pia began retreating to the welcoming warmth of Herr Schiller's, Stefan in tow, to get away from the building tension in her house. Hearing the old man's stories of mysterious happenings, the children's minds turned to the possibility of solving the crime themselves, becoming heroes in the process.
As more girls disappeared, the tension in the town grew. Neighbors became suspicious of each other, paranoia and fear turning the once quiet village into a place filled with mistrust. And the more frequent the kidnappings, the more Pia's parents flew at each other's throats. The village, and Pia's family, was falling apart. And the worst was yet to come.
Grant's writing style is polished, her ability to create diverse characters well-refined. Such assured prose in a first novel is an impressive achievement.
The downside is I was a bit confused for what audience the book was written. Adult readers who also enjoy young adult fiction would probably find it a worthwhile read. But younger teens (the ages of the main characters), for whom the plot would also be appropriately thrilling, would need to be mature enough to handle the occasional f-bombs that seem to explode out of nowhere. While not a prude by any stretch, the casual use of extreme swears would keep me from handing the book to my own 13 year old son. And my older teens - 15 and 16 - would probably be bored by the subject matter and characters younger than themselves, with whom they can't as easily relate.
So, who does that leave? Adults like myself who enjoy twists on the fairy tale, fantasy mixed with thrilling components: readers who enjoyed Harry Potter, the Hunger Games series, as well as Tunnels. A somewhat limited reading audience, maybe, but Helen Grant's prose is so well written I'm looking forward to her next book, The Glass Demon, due out next year.
My final verdict is The Vanishing of Katharina Linden is a smart page turner, a good effort at translating the fairy tale into a modern setting. While still a bit iffy as to its audience, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The writing style was enjoyable, and I think Helen Grant has the potential to write some really fun books in the future.Read more