The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone

'We lost all three girls that summer. Let them slip away like the words of some half-remembered song and when one came back, she wasn't the one we were trying to recall to begin with.'So begins Tikka Molloy's recounting of the summer of 1992 - the summer the Van Apfel sisters, Hannah, the beautiful Cordelia and Ruth - disappear.Eleven and one-sixth years old...

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Title:The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone
Author:Felicity McLean
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone Reviews

  • Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews

    *

    ‘Then she said the words I’d been waiting to hear: ‘Don’t you know? The Van Apfel girls are gone.’

    Felicity McLean may have just released her first debut novel, but she is no stranger to the written word. She has carved out a career as a respected ghost writer, a children’s book author and a journalist. This previous experience has put McLean in good standing. The Van Apfel Girls are Gone is assured, refined and

    *

    ‘Then she said the words I’d been waiting to hear: ‘Don’t you know? The Van Apfel girls are gone.’

    Felicity McLean may have just released her first debut novel, but she is no stranger to the written word. She has carved out a career as a respected ghost writer, a children’s book author and a journalist. This previous experience has put McLean in good standing. The Van Apfel Girls are Gone is assured, refined and incredibly intriguing. It had me hook, line and sinker!

    At the very heart of The Van Apfel Girls are Gone is Tikka Molloy and the fateful summer of 1992. At just eleven years old, Tikka was impacted by an incident that will haunt her for years to come. Day after day Tikka and her sister Laura socialise with their neighbours, the Van Apfel sisters. Older sister Hannah, ethereal Cordelia and younger sister Ruth become entrenched in the lives and memories of Tikka. When they mysteriously disappear after a concert at their local school, a search of the local bushland area reveals nothing. Some twenty years after the disappearance of the Van Apfel sisters, Tikka comes home, in an attempt to understand the events of the fateful summer that has forever become etched on her mind.

    The striking cover of The Van Apfel Girls are Gone first caught my eye. The innocent young blonde girl has a real The Virgin Suicides vibe. In fact, I wasn’t at all surprised to learn that this novel has been likened to the Jeffrey Eugenides modern classic. Felicity McLean’s debut novel has also been compared to a present day Picnic at Hanging Rock. It does have that mysterious, haunting, speculative feel that Joan Lindsay’s classic exudes. With such highly regarded books linked to this novel, The Van Apfel Girls are Gone has some big shoes to fill, but thankfully it delivered.

    The book is structured in a split timeline style of narration. We meet Tikka Molloy, the principal narrator, in the opening stages of the novel after an eventful prologue. Early on in the novel, questions are thrown in the air, accusations made and speculation is aimed at the young Van Apfel girls and their unusual father. This level of suspense, intrigue and conjecture is carried over for the entire novel. It is a hard act to maintain, but McLean nails it.

    McLean’s characterisation is steadfast. I couldn’t fault it. Each Van Apfel girl is illuminated by McLean’s precise prose and I was able to build a strong picture in my mind of these young sisters. Likewise, their father, the fervent Mr Van Apfel was captured well by McLean. As the book is told primarily through the eyes of an impassioned eleven year old, there are some doubts surrounding the character portraits of these protagonists, particularly the adults. The whole tone of the book is ambiguous, full of grey areas, doubts, misunderstandings and gaps. I think it works well to draw out the suspense and mystery side of the novel.

    Another element of the book that I really connected with was the setting. Set in 1992, Tikka is exactly the same age as I was in this year. It worked to strengthen my connection and understanding of the events on the book. McLean successfully takes the reader back to a time of innocence, where we were much more connected to our local neighbourhood and community. McLean captures the naivety and carefree nature of Tikka, who behaved in almost exactly the same way as I would have done in this era. It is suburban NSW in 1992, but it could just as easily have been my own suburb in Perth. I was fondly reminded of pop culture and common aspects of this era, from paddle pops, to redskins, sprinklers and endless hours spent in backyard swimming pools.

    I felt that the book was more about Tikka’s journey to recover from a life changing incident that occurred in childhood that directly shaped her consciousness as an adult. She experiences a form of PTSD. Tikka has a strong sense of guilt and she has visions that haunt her. Tikka also has an almost obsessive need to reconnect with the missing Cordelia. In some respects I feel that The Van Apfel Girls are Gone is a good study of post traumatic stress disorder and bystander’s guilt.

    Tikka’s experience in the novel could also be considered a coming of age style piece. It is easy to draw a line between this novel and a number of great Australian coming of age novels such as Looking for Alibrandi and Jasper Jones. There is also a distinct scent of Australian gothic following this novel, which is why The Van Apfel Girls are Gone has been compared to Picnic at Hanging Rock. The cryptic and paradoxical turn of events for The Van Apfel Girls are Gone definitely puts this book in the same vein as Picnic at Hanging Rock. I would have appreciated a final answer to not only the disappearance of The Van Apfel Girls are Gone, but what exactly happened to Cordelia, the truth behind their possible abuse by their father and the links to the teacher. McLean does want the reader to draw their own conclusions.

    With themes of religious devotion, friendship, maturity, trust, loyalty, suppression, secrecy, remorse and regret following The Van Apfel Girls are Gone, this one will shock you and stun you. A pointed and slick first novel, the trapping style of storytelling will pull you in from the opening moments, to the very close of this captivating debut.

    *I wish to thank Harper Collins Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.

    The Van Apfel Girls are Gone is book #46 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge

  • Michelle

    This book is so rich and lush in atmosphere. I could feel the heat wave of this Australian summer as the hot sun kissed my skin. I could hear the birds chirping and the insects buzzing and I almost felt as if I was walking hand in hand with Tikka as she told me the story about the Van Apfel girls.

    Hannah, Cordie, and

    This book is so rich and lush in atmosphere. I could feel the heat wave of this Australian summer as the hot sun kissed my skin. I could hear the birds chirping and the insects buzzing and I almost felt as if I was walking hand in hand with Tikka as she told me the story about the Van Apfel girls.

    Hannah, Cordie, and Ruth Van Apfel live under the thumb of their strict, and often cruel, religious father so Hannah and Cordie make a plan to runaway during the schools Showstopper concert. The plan doesn't go accordingly yet the girls manage to disappear leaving their best friends and neighbors, sisters, Tikka and Laura, wondering what has become of them even all these years later.

    This book is being marketed as a mystery/thriller and I think that is a huge disservice to this wonderful coming of age novel. Yes, there is the mystery of the Van Apfel girls disappearance but it remains unsolved so mystery lovers looking for resolutions may be disappointed and so with that being said there isn't really anything thrilling happening either. Where this book succeeds is in character development and drawing a sense of place. These characters came alive to me and were portrayed so realistically. The conversation among the girls and their behaviors were so on point that it brought me back to my own early teen years. I loved spending time with Tikka and this book. If you enjoy coming of age tales then this is one not to be missed! 4 *Sultry* Stars!

  • karen

    look who came all the way from australia and braved a biblical downpour just to sign books for our book club!

    look who came all the way from australia and braved a biblical downpour just to sign books for our book club!

    "they" are three australian sisters; cordie, hannah, and ruth van apfel, who go missing one summer in 1992. "us" is the small community left rocked by the girls' disappearance, most specifically tikka malloy and her sister laura, who were eleven and fourteen that summer; close friends and neighbors of the van apfel girls.

    twenty years later, tikka is living in baltimore, still haunted by the unresolved questions surrounding the vanishing, still obsessed with this defining dramatic event of her childhood. returning to her hometown to visit her cancer-stricken sister, her memories of the time and events leading up to the girls' disappearance resurface, mixing with laura's own corroborations and contradictions, picking apart what she knew, what she suspected, what she witnessed but couldn’t fully understand or interpret as a child.

    it’s both a coming-of-age story and a work of suburban suspense; one where the past is unpacked, examined, and relived. the writing style is vivid and immediate, but the scenes, through tikka’s eyes, have a gauzy, hazy quality to them that has as much to do with the porousness of memory as it does with that summer’s heat wave.

    i became completely engrossed in it, i loved the structure, i responded very favorably both to the characters and the fully-realized atmosphere made up of small-town gossip, ambiguity, and adolescent-girl secrecy; a cocktail that anyone who enjoys the work of megan abbott will appreciate.

    as a related aside, i am someone who often scoffs at dust jacket readalikes and how frequently off-target they are; name-dropping best-sellers with little actual relevance to the book’s beating heart to lure unwary consumers. some of my scoffing is tinged with jealousy, since i yearn to be the queen of readers' advisory in charge of all readalike declarations, but in this case?

    meets

    is both a great hook and also great matches. and while it is true that i have only seen the film-version of

    (which may be why i am not yet the queen of readers' advisory), the tone of this is

    how i remember the tone of

    being: at once detached and voyeuristic, chronicling the bravado and charisma and vulnerability and emotional weight of adolescent girlhood.

    an impressive debut, and i'm looking forward to more from her in the future.

  • Liz

    My initial impression of this book was quirky. Tikka returns home from Baltimore to the suburbs outside Sidney, Australia. The trip brings on an onslaught of memories from the year she’s 11, the year her neighborhood friends, three sisters, disappear. And what’s apparent and obvious to an adult is not to an eleven year old. So her impressions are just a tad off, leading to a slightly offbeat telling. And the secondary characters are not your average folks either. There’s Mr. Apfel, a religious f

    My initial impression of this book was quirky. Tikka returns home from Baltimore to the suburbs outside Sidney, Australia. The trip brings on an onslaught of memories from the year she’s 11, the year her neighborhood friends, three sisters, disappear. And what’s apparent and obvious to an adult is not to an eleven year old. So her impressions are just a tad off, leading to a slightly offbeat telling. And the secondary characters are not your average folks either. There’s Mr. Apfel, a religious fanatic who leads the girls in Bible study and prayers and punishes those that don’t get the message correctly. There’s the teacher whose actions just don’t seem appropriate.

    McLean does a wonderful job of getting the kids just right - the weird discussions, the picking on siblings, the not quite understanding how things work.

    But as the book goes on, it gets more and more poignant. My heart just ached for those girls. All of them. Even as adults, when Laura and Tikka still wonder if they did the right thing. I had no idea how this would play out. It’s a wonderfully ambiguous story. Don’t go into this story expecting answers or you’ll be disappointed.

    My thanks to Algonquin Books for an advance copy of this book.

  • Mary Beth *Traveling Sister*

    3.5 Stars!

    The Van Apfel girls grew up with an extremely strict religious father.

    Tikka Molloy can't forget the summer of 1992. It was the summer that the Van Apfel sisters disappeared, all three of them. The story is set in Australia, in an eerie river valley suburb with an awful unexplained smell.

    The night of the Showstopper concert by the river was the night that the Van Apfel girls disappeared. They vanished without a trace.

    This was a very sad story that kept me intrigued a

    3.5 Stars!

    The Van Apfel girls grew up with an extremely strict religious father.

    Tikka Molloy can't forget the summer of 1992. It was the summer that the Van Apfel sisters disappeared, all three of them. The story is set in Australia, in an eerie river valley suburb with an awful unexplained smell.

    The night of the Showstopper concert by the river was the night that the Van Apfel girls disappeared. They vanished without a trace.

    This was a very sad story that kept me intrigued and kept me turning the pages. This is a slow burn mystery. I did love the atmosphere. It did have some surprises, dark secrets, and It was a little disturbing. I wouldn't call this one a thriller. I am more of a thriller fan than a mystery fan.

    The setting takes place in Australia. I did have some questions at the end that were unanswered.

    I loved the descriptive writing style and I did connect with the characters. My heart went out to the sisters, Hannah, Cordelia and Ruth, and I really felt sorry for Tikka.

    This story is part mystery and a coming of age genre and would recommend this one to those that enjoy this genre.

    I want to thank Algonquin Books for the arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

    Tikka Malloy’s playmates, the Van Apfel sisters, disappeared when she was eleven years old. It’s a mystery haunting her and her sister, Laura, for years.

    Ruth, Hannah, and Cordelia have harsh, religious parents, and it’s never been known if they ran away or were taken.

    Tikka has now returned home as an adult to try to grasp just what happened to the sisters that summer.

    If you are looking for a fresh take o

    ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

    Tikka Malloy’s playmates, the Van Apfel sisters, disappeared when she was eleven years old. It’s a mystery haunting her and her sister, Laura, for years.

    Ruth, Hannah, and Cordelia have harsh, religious parents, and it’s never been known if they ran away or were taken.

    Tikka has now returned home as an adult to try to grasp just what happened to the sisters that summer.

    If you are looking for a fresh take on a suspenseful read, this is your book! The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone is an engaging mystery, as well as a campy coming-of-age story. It’s a compelling page-turner, and I’ve read nothing remotely like this premise or the way in which it was executed.

    The story has a melancholy tone, and the writing is lush and descriptive. I loved the Australia setting. Tikka and Laura shoulder some blame, as children often do, when things like this happen, whether it’s warranted or not. McLean captures the poignancy in their emotions, as well those as rippling through the small community from which these girls are lost.

    Overall, The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone is uniquely its own story. It’s captivating, original, and keeps you guessing. There’s a haze of ambiguity, and my mind was spinning. This is just how I like my mysteries!

    I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

    My reviews can also be found on my blog:

  • Larry H

    If you're looking for a mysterious, quirky book that may leave you with more questions than answers, Felicity McLean's

    may be just the ticket for you!

    "We lost all three girls that summer. Let them slip away like the words of dome half-remembered song, and when one came back, she wasn't the one we were trying to recall to begin with."

    In the summer of 1992, Tikka Malloy and her older sister, Laura, were living in a suburban Australian town. Tikka

    If you're looking for a mysterious, quirky book that may leave you with more questions than answers, Felicity McLean's

    may be just the ticket for you!

    "We lost all three girls that summer. Let them slip away like the words of dome half-remembered song, and when one came back, she wasn't the one we were trying to recall to begin with."

    In the summer of 1992, Tikka Malloy and her older sister, Laura, were living in a suburban Australian town. Tikka was 11-1/6 years old, and she and Laura spent most of their time with their best friends, Ruth, Hannah, and Cordelia Van Apfel. At the time, the country was obsessed with the Lindy Chamberlain case (she of the "dingo took my baby"), but that summer, something major happened to Tikka and Laura: one night during a school concert, all three Van Apfel sisters disappeared.

    Despite an exhaustive search, no sign of the girls was ever found. Did their odd, strict, evangelical parents have something to do with their disappearance? Did they run away? Was a stranger responsible? The town, and the Malloy sisters, are left with no answers, a fact that haunts them all these years later.

    When 20 years later Tikka returns to Australia to see her sister, who has recently been diagnosed with cancer, of course their memories turn to the Van Apfel girls' disappearance. And it is only with years of perspective on the mystery that Tikka and Laura begin to make sense of some events which occurred before the girls went missing, and they can finally start to process clues they might not have understood when they were younger.

    This is a fascinating, well-told book which switches back and forth between 1992 as the girls' disappearance unfolds, and 2012, as Tikka tries to come to terms with the events of that summer. McLean creates some truly memorable characters to inhabit this story, and she certainly raises more than a healthy share of questions about what happened to the Van Apfel girls. (Ultimately the reader is left with two potential scenarios.)

    What's interesting about this book is the fact that so much is seen through the eyes of 11-year-old Tikka, so you're not quite sure if what is being presented is accurate or simply her perceptions of what occurred. That adds to the mystery and poignancy of the story, as does the feeling of guilt that Tikka and Laura share, for perhaps not divulging all of the things they knew back then.

    McLean does such a terrific job with evocative imagery; Australia is, of course, such a fascinating and beautiful place, and McLean certainly helps you to see everything in your mind's eye. She also has created such a unique story, full of answers and questions, and it's one that will stick in my mind for some time to come.

    will make you think and it will fill you with nostalgia for the simpler days of your youth and childhood friendships. But it will also haunt you a bit and make you wonder how you might react if you were faced with the same situation that Tikka and Laura were.

    Algonquin Books provided me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

    See all of my reviews at

    .

    Check out my list of the best books I read in 2018 at

    .

    You can follow me on Instagram at

  • Marchpane

    is well written, easy to read, easily devoured in an afternoon. It’s slick, but conventional: it’s too easy to see the film adaptation playing out in your head. Set mostly in 1992, there’s plenty of nostalgia for Gen X Aussies (sunnyboys by the pool; a slumber party complete with half-arsed séance; hearing about the Azaria Chamberlain case in the news). The child narrator is endearing, and the author really seems to get the dynamics between adolescent & preteen gir

    is well written, easy to read, easily devoured in an afternoon. It’s slick, but conventional: it’s too easy to see the film adaptation playing out in your head. Set mostly in 1992, there’s plenty of nostalgia for Gen X Aussies (sunnyboys by the pool; a slumber party complete with half-arsed séance; hearing about the Azaria Chamberlain case in the news). The child narrator is endearing, and the author really seems to get the dynamics between adolescent & preteen girls.

    The blurb blazons some big name comparisons. So, is this like

    ? Only inasmuch as it’s set in Australia and some girls go missing. Is it like

    ? Only inasmuch as those suburban girls are three blonde sisters.

    This novel sits in that crossover zone between commercial & literary fiction, along with books like

    (but without the theme of racial prejudice) or

    (but without the violence and supernatural ghosties). I feel I can pretty safely say that if you loved/hated those books you will love/hate

    too. For me it was… good. Readable, enjoyable, but not particularly memorable.

  • Suzanne

    To me, this darkly themed story had a slight literary fiction feel, and I don’t love that genre. In saying that, I was okay with it. Set in the early 1990’s, this tale of three sisters who simply go missing on the night of the school concert, leaves the reader with a lot of pondering to do. Full of Aussie colloquialisms, and extremely well told, we witness the young Van Apfel sisters, bought up in a disturbingly warped religious household. Tikka (I loved this name) is their precocious whip smart

    To me, this darkly themed story had a slight literary fiction feel, and I don’t love that genre. In saying that, I was okay with it. Set in the early 1990’s, this tale of three sisters who simply go missing on the night of the school concert, leaves the reader with a lot of pondering to do. Full of Aussie colloquialisms, and extremely well told, we witness the young Van Apfel sisters, bought up in a disturbingly warped religious household. Tikka (I loved this name) is their precocious whip smart neighbour and mate is our narrator, she’s a feisty girl and oh so smart.

    A strange and frightening river town full of even stranger characters, we never really get the full gist of what is going on. An ungodly holy man with a spineless wife, a teacher who is not straight up, and families just being families in the suburbs gives us a confusing sense of some misdirected young girls without bearings nor an anchor to give them any sense of safety. I was listening to this audio read with such intensity at the very end that I missed my freeway exit one Sunday night, but I do remember driving along thinking ‘I need to know more, please!’. Australian literature fans will be sure to like this beguiling offering.

  • Carolyn

    On the night of a school concert in an ordinary 1990s Australian suburb, the three van Apfel girls disappeared. Hannah 14, Cordelia (Cordie) 13 and Ruth, 7. Despite extensive searches, only one of them is ever found. Twenty years later their neighbour and friend Tikka Molloy returns home to visit her parents and older sister Laura and relates the events that led up to the girls' disappearance through her then 11 year old understanding as well as from her now adult viewpoint.

    Tikka's m

    On the night of a school concert in an ordinary 1990s Australian suburb, the three van Apfel girls disappeared. Hannah 14, Cordelia (Cordie) 13 and Ruth, 7. Despite extensive searches, only one of them is ever found. Twenty years later their neighbour and friend Tikka Molloy returns home to visit her parents and older sister Laura and relates the events that led up to the girls' disappearance through her then 11 year old understanding as well as from her now adult viewpoint.

    Tikka's memories of growing up in the 1990s are evocative of the Australian childhood - walking to school, buying ice-creams at the corner shop, sleep-over parties, lazy summer days spent swimming in the pool and hanging out with the girls next door. But there are darker memories - the explosively cruel and religiously zealous Mr van Apfel who would punish his daughters for any perceived sin, as well as a shady teacher who seems to be around Cordie more than he should, and there is a sense of menace that infuses Tikka's memories.

    It is the confident and graceful Cordie who Tikka most idolises and has trouble forgetting, and even twenty years later she wonders if she could have done more to help the police find the girls. She also seems lost and unsure of her place in life and needs to overcome her sense of guilt and loss over the girls' disappearance. With echoes of

    and

    , this is an intriguing and atmospheric mystery. 3.5★

    I listened to the audio version narrated by Eloise Oxer. I thought she did a good job with the female parts, although I wasn't that keen on the male voices.

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