I was lucky enough to read Mary Sharratt's new novel, The Vanishing Point, when it was in manuscript. I was blown away by it then, but to re-read it as a book, and such a gorgeous book! was an amazing pleasure. I took it along to the beach at Santa Cruz this weekend, and gobbled it down while my daughter and her friends were whizzing around on roller coasters. (her 12th birthday celebration)
I love this book. It's historically fascinating. It's sexy (very!). It's feministy. It's mysterious and suspenseful and compelling. The sentences are luscious. And it's a true page-turner. I found myself gasping out loud at many of the book's surprising and twisty turns. It's the story of two sisters in the New World, separated by circumstance and mystery, so different from each other and yet bound by an intense love and loyalty to each other. Here's an excerpt from a review in Minnesota Magazine.
Mary Sharratt's new novel, The Vanishing Point, is a page-turner, a mystery, a quietly feminist tale, and a richly researched historical novel with ever-unfolding plot twists. An author's note indicates that Sharratt, who also wrote Summit Avenue and The Real Minerva, spent 10 years researching the medicine and mores of the 17th century, and her expertise is evident. Her hand is sure as she guides us through the story, sprinking confident and casual references to birth control (did you know that honey kills sperm?), and healing herbs, and the Diggers and Levelers, English rebel groups who sought an end to feudal ways.The Vanishing Point is such an impeccably researched book. Since I am also allegedly writing a historical novel, it made me realize that I have a lot of work yet to do. It really awed and inspired me to get back to my own book, and to take the care that Mary did with hers. I was fascinated by the Afterword in the book, which described Mary's research and writing process, and illuminated the question that drove her to write the book.
The Vanishing Point is also an examination of love, loyalty, and betrayal.
What would happen to a late-seventeenth-century woman who was determined to carve out her own destiny and who demanded the same liberties, both social and sexual, as a man?
This book is beautifully designed; the chapter heading fonts, in Colonial script, were enough to make me swoon and dive into each section. And it is part of a new trend of releasing new books straight into paperback. I think this is a good thing. Much as I love the feel and smell of a hardcover book, I often say I will "wait until paperback" and then never end up buying a book. People don't have to wait this time. It's affordable, and more than worth its price.