What I gleaned about the story: Sarah is a brilliant and rebellious young American woman who wants it all: an education, a career, and even a family, but on her own terms. Unfortunatley, this is 1910 and she’s the daughter of a respected rabbi and scholar. What’s a poor girl to do? Why, become a vampire hunter, of course. Or at least, I think that’s what’s about to happen.
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Analysis: There’s a rather lengthy section where we get immersed into Sarah’s home life, played out in a series of conversations with her parents. It’s quickly established that the girl is a brilliant scholar in a world dominated by men, and that this is generally not well received by early 20th century society. But these conversations go on quite a bit longer than I thought was needed to make the point, and it’s beginning to feel repetitive to me. To the point where I found myself skipping ahead, looking for the next beat of story. The prose is good, but in this one place, I zoned out and lost the immersion.
Analysis: The story is set in America, 1910, and to support that, the language is slightly old fashioned. Quaint even. But these are teenagers and when they’re out among themselves, it irks me a bit to read dialogue like: “Whoever prepared this lunch was both generous and assiduous,” he said. Even if teens really did speak that way to each other, it feels wrong to me, as though young adults a century ago did not let their hair down when away from the scrutiny of their straight-laced elders. But whether the dialogue is accurate or not, when I start asking questions of historical veracity, I’m clearly not as immersed as I should be.
Then, later, just to invert that, we go entirely the other way with this brief exchange:
“I’m sorry,” Anne said.
“It’s not a problem.” [he replied.]
Not a problem for him, maybe, but the phrase “not a problem” in the mouth of a 1910 youth is definitely a problem for me. To my ear, responses like “Not at all” or “Think nothing of it” would have been much better suited to the milieu, and would not have conjured up mental images of a 2010 hipster trying to maintain his chill with the ladies.
Analysis: Good Lord. A dead body. Sarah had never seen one, not even when Judah died — her parents hadn’t allowed her into the room.
But this is 1910. 30% of the children born do not live to see their 1st birthday and the average life expectancy is 48. Her father is a former rabbi. Death is freaking everywhere. I could certainly believe that a 17 year old girl had never seen a brutally murdered corpse before, but never having seen a dead body? This struck me as another anachronism, projecting our current citified views of death back onto a world that was almost literally swimming in it.