I only discovered after I’d finished reading THE VANISHING MOMENT that two of Margaret Wild’s earlier novels were written in verse but I’m not surprised. The book – a novella really at a deliciously short 184 pages – has the kind of economy with words that I would expect of a poet and its use of language seems very deliberate. As though each word has been the subject of thoughtful consideration before being included which doesn’t seem to be the case with every book I read these days.
It is the tale of three young people whose lives appear to have nothing to do with each other. Though there couldn’t be too many readers who don’t anticipate some kind of coming together it’s not clear what form this intertwining will take and Wild does a good job of building this suspenseful part of the story. Arrow, still troubled by a tragedy which occurred in her childhood, has finished high school but doesn’t know what to do with herself and is being increasingly pressured by her parents to do something other than laze about. Marika is of a similar age but is more ‘together’ in that she knows she wants to be (or already is?) an artist – a sculptor in fact – and is taking steps to get there. The tragedy in her life is yet to come when the book opens. Bob is a young man with a troublingly good memory whom both young women will eventually meet.
Given the novel is marketed as YA and includes a paranormal theme it would have been easy for me to dismiss it but I quickly found myself engrossed. Although in the end it is very important to the story as a whole, the supernatural element doesn’t really occupy an enormous amount of the book (which is as I like it) and I enjoyed reading about these two young women and how they coped (or didn’t) with the traumas they both experienced. Their characters are nicely fleshed out and their tribulations are realistic and genuine (as in they’re not taking to their beds because of a bad haircut or something equally inane).
The book does rip along (as it would with that length) and Wild does keep readers intelligently in suspense for most of the tale. I do have to admit though that I found the final act a little disappointing. It seemed a bit too…convenient…I suppose is the best word. The rest of the book showed a lot of maturity but the last quarter or so reminded me it was targeted at a much younger audience than I’ll ever be part of again and felt a little unsophisticated relative to the earlier part of the novel.
Overall though I liked the book and the way it played with the boundaries of genre. It’s not a traditional crime novel in that there are no procedural elements and whodunit is never the central question but there are crimes and these events, and how people react to them, are pivotal to the story. So I would thoroughly recommend THE VANISHING MOMENT, especially to younger readers though it isn’t one of those YA novels that offers an alien world to people over 30. If you are going to read it I’d avoid the blurb and a lot of reviews which give away far more than they should. I went into this one knowing absolutely nothing about the story and am sure that had a lot to do with my enjoyment.
Publisher: Allen & Unwin 
Length: 184 pages
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