The Vanishing of Katharina Linden

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden is a novel about the disappearance of several girls in a small town in Germany in the 1990s. Told from the point-of-view of the girls’ classmate, ten-year-old Pia, this novel isn’t quite a mystery, isn’t quite a coming of age tale, but is entirely engrossing. As Pia and her friend, StinkStefan, take it upon themselves to investigate the disappearances, the town grows increasingly paranoid, hurling accusations through vicious gossip and deciding for themselves who the perpetrator really is. Pia’s mentor, Herr Schiller, entertains Pia and StinkStefan with his folktales and tries to guide them through this difficult time. Meanwhile, the tension in the town drives Pia’s parents — one English, one German– farther and farther apart. And then Pia herself disappears…

I guessed the perpetrator long before Grant revealed it, but the resolution of the various tensions is exciting and satisfying. I was saddened by the very end of the book, but I have to admit that it’s the more realistic option, if not the happiest. Pia’s voice as narrator is delightful as well as a savvy choice by Grant, who uses her position as a child to imbue the novel with wonder, possibility, and mystery. Things that shock Pia sometimes (intentionally) only amuse an adult reader, but many of the things that surprise her also surprise us.  Her portrayal of the parent’s relationship isnicely handled. This book is long and intricate, but worth taking the time to read. Grant has written some really wonderful fiction here. I’m looking forward to reading her next work, The Glass Demon, which came out last year. If you’re into thrillers and don’t mind length, you should check this book out. I really enjoyed it.

P.S. This book won an Alex Award, which is for books that have an appeal to readers ages 12-18. So apparently this is a YA novel. I didn’t realize that until just now, for whatever that’s worth.

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2 thoughts on “The Vanishing of Katharina Linden

    1. And I’m a little jealous of all the fabulous research you’re doing. 🙂 In Heaven, we’ll have all the time we need to read all the books we want.

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