You’ll see from my original blog post (https://theteacherbookworm.com/2020/04/04/the-vanishing-trick-jenni-spangler/) how much I loved this book! Jenni has written an eerie, mysterious, fast-paced story which will have you enveloped in it’s drama from the first page to the last.
Leander, an orphan, needs to keep himself alive however he can – even if this means he needs to steal some food from time to time. When he comes across the mysterious Madame Pinchbeck, he thinks his luck might have changed…but is all as it originally seems?
Set in the Victorian era, which adds to the eerie atmosphere to the tale, The Vanishing Trick has a range of interesting references to different inventions and artefacts, one of which was a specific interest and inspiration to the author!
Today, I have some exclusive content for you from the Jenni Spangler herself. Read on, and find out about the inspiration for the book, as well as learn a little about history too!
Of all the many wonderful inventions the Victorian’s gave us, my favourite is the photograph. It’s magical to look back in time and see the faces of people from almost 200 years ago. The early Victorian era is the first time we have a photographic record of the people who came before us, and that’s special.
We have paintings of people from hundreds of years ago, but the old portraits that hang in our galleries are of the rich and powerful – people who had enough money to commission an artist to spend many hours painting their likeness.
The ordinary people are missing. The working classes, the labourers, the clerks and bootmakers and grocers – their faces were never recorded. When normal people do feature in these older artworks, they rarely represent a specific person – more likely they are drawn from the artist’s imagination to make up part of a crowd.
But photos changed that. Photos were (relatively) quick and (reasonably) cheap. All but the poorest people could afford to have a photograph taken. Suddenly there’s an explosion of ordinary people in the historical record – not only their names but their actual faces.
And always I’m surprised by just how much they look like us.
Of course they do – why wouldn’t they? Aside from our hairstyles, humans haven’t physically changed in the last hundred and fifty years. And yet it’s still startling to realise their faces wouldn’t look out of place if we sat opposite them on the bus. Perhaps it’s because we’re used to seeing these fancy, stylised portraits of flawless, dainty women and strong, serious men hanging in galleries – it makes it feel like the people in the past were different, somehow.
But photos cut right through that. They look you in the eye and you’re connected across the centuries. I find myself wondering if this was the only photo they had taken. Was it given to a sweetheart, or kept by a proud parent? What would they think if they knew I was looking at it all these years later?
The Vanishing Trick was inspired by some of these photos. A camera plays an important part in the story, but mostly it was the photographs themselves which drew me in. A beautiful but stern woman, a wild-haired preacher, a sad little boy with a violin and a fierce little girl all became characters in my story. If you’d like to see the pictures which inspired The Vanishing Trick, you can find them at jennispangler.com. I wonder what people in the future will make of the billions of photos we will leave behind, and what stories they might inspire.
I can definitely relate to the interest of photos from times gone by! They can be haunting. Expressive. Surprising. Emotive. All words which can also be used to describe Jenni’s book!
Like the sound of this book? Buy it here: https://amzn.to/3bMlMB2