The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy | 1 Minute Reviews

What a terrifically strange little book this is. I was sucked into this magical wartime novel immediately and long to go back to it. Readers do know, I rarely re-read a book but oh gosh I want to be back in that world.


When their mother Juliet dies, Aila and Miles are sent to live with family friends – the Cliftons – in the remote town of Sterling, as their father goes away to war. Juliet’s former hometown, Sterling is a place with a mystery or a curse – every seven years something disappears.

When not all the townsfolk warmly welcome their arrival, Aila begins to realise that her mother may be connected to the missing reflections, stars and dreams. But what is the connection, and what does her ring hidden in a copy of Shakespeare’s entire plays have to do with it? Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger who records bird sightings and lives with a strange old man Phineas worms his way into the story. Can Aila work to save the town from their disappearances?


I absolutely adore this novel. Aila is the exact sort of brilliant, plucky young woman that I love to read. The world itself is immense – while being based on 1940s rural America, Emily Bain Murphy has created a magical realness that exists in Sterling; a world of magical powders called variants that can bring back what was taken in the disappearances, a world of science and adventure and literature and curses! It reminded me a little of The Bone Gap and The Lie Tree, but far more sinister and with the whole town in on the strange happenings.

Aila, Will and the other teenagers set out to solve the disappearances, leading them down a path of cryptic clues and dead ends. I didn’t know where it was going to go – rare for me in a book with mystery as I often guess what it is.


While marketed as YA, to me The Disappearances straddles the barrier between Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction, much like the work of Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Garth Nix. It has a poetic nature to the prose; stunning, buttery and magical.

Released on the 3rd of August this year, I think that Pushkin Press may have found one of my favourite novels of the year. I’m eagerly awaiting Emily Bain Murphy’s next offering.

Interested? Get it here.

What to read next:

Thank you kindly to Pushkin Children’s who sent this copy to me, knowing full well that it would be my cup of tea.

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