Penguin, £6.99 Order for £6.64 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 0870 079 8897



The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, By Helen Grant

A tale of disappearing youth

When you read The Catcher in the Rye as a teenager (as you should), you tend to think of Holden Caulfield: "What a puncturer of phoniness!" And when you read Salinger's novel again as an adult (as you should), you tend to think: "What a naïve and self-regarding little prig!" Such a shift of point-of-view – from youthful identification to adult distance – is crucial to our response to the child narrator of Helen Grant's The Vanishing of Katharina Linden.

A single encounter with this remarkable novel is all that is needed for us to perform this juggling of perspective. Is the folkloric world of 10-year-old Pia's imagination – with its Brothers Grimm-style perceptions – the best way to approach the disappearance of Pia's friend Katharina, rather than more prosaic solutions? We are allowed – invited, even – to change our mind constantly about the protagonist.

Before we address the dark mystery at the heart of the novel, there is another one: who is this book for? With its juvenile heroine, it would appear to be a novel for teenagers. But the publisher, rightly, also has adult readers in its sights: there's a whole stratum of meaning which will only work on that level.

The German setting of Grant's novel belies her Englishness. She begins with a Dickensian spontaneous combustion. In Bad Münstereifel, Pia finds herself known as "the girl whose grandmother exploded". This accident sets the grim (Grimm?) tone of what follows. Pia is mystified by the disappearance of Katharina; she is the last to see her alive.

The disbelief of the small town is palpable. In a place where everyone knows everyone, who could be behind the crime? As Pia investigates, we wonder if we should take on trust her fey solutions.

It would be churlish to hint at whether the answer is in the realms of the uncanny or is more earthbound, but it's a measure of Grant's success that readers will find themselves shuffling through a wide range of possibilities.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen