Belgian journalist Meuleman draws on the lives of famous female authors as she weaves through the past and present in this unpredictable and suspenseful debut novel.
In 1996, a young girl named Sophie disappears from a small Belgian village. This fact torments Hannah, Sophie’s best friend and Meuleman’s protagonist. In 2014, Hannah walks away from her glitzy life in New York City: “What makes a successful columnist, adored by a blond Adonis like Boy, decide to abandon her fabulous apartment and bid farewell to…well, just about everything?” Her friends are worried and her editor thinks she’s committing “career suicide,” but Hannah is sick of “her tributes to the fake and frothy.” She moves to Bushwick and begins writing a book about the lives of three writers who disappeared: Agatha Christie, Barbara Follett, and Virginia Woolf. “They are more than just writers,” Hannah contends when confronted by the potential insignificance of her biographical work. “They fought their battles, swam against the current, and then disappeared one day. Just like the twelve-year-old girl who vanished from a Belgian village. A girl she knew better than anyone.” Meuleman slowly spools out the details of a secret that haunts Hannah’s past, the chapters jumping from 2014 New York to bits of the book Hannah is writing (some of the most interesting parts here) to scenes from Hannah’s little Belgian hometown in the 1990s—all seemingly disparate tales, but the connections becomes clearer as the book unfolds. It’s a plucky effort and at times takes on more than it can chew, but it will entice readers looking for something to keep them guessing until the end.
An engaging novel that shines a light on the pain some women are forced to bear.