‘The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman’ by Mamen Sánchez
Mamen Sánchez’s The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman (what a great title!) tells the story of one Atticus Craftsman, heir to a British publishing house, who is sent to Spain to shut down the publisher’s failing Spanish literary magazine. This magazine is run by five women, one of whom has rather more to hide than the other four, and, in the course of closing the magazine, Atticus (altogether unexpectedly!) disappears. Or so his British father back in London thinks.
For whatever reason, I went into Disappearance expecting a bookish novel, along the lines of A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé or Tom Rachman’s The Rise and Fall of Great Powers (or maybe even more like Rachman’s first novel, The Imperfectionists). The book was recommended in the August edition of the IndieBound Next List, a usually reputable source of good reads, so maybe that’s where I got the notion.
In any event, Disappearance is many things — including fun, madcap, and sweet — but it is not particularly literary. It is pure fluffy goodness, something light and downright goofy that would have been a perfect beach read earlier in the summer. (Who releases a book like this at the end of August?!)
Setting my disappointment and mismatched expectations aside, The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman is entertaining enough and romantic enough to scratch any rom-com itch you might have. The ending is too long by half, dragging out well beyond the neat conclusion of each and every little plot thread, but the first 3/4ths of the book, with its nesting doll structure, out of step time structure, and multiple plotlines, was endearing and engaging.
In the end, I didn’t love Disappearance, but at the very least it helped me out of a reading rut. It just felt good to be reading again, any book! If you’re looking for something very, very light with the comic sensibility of a Howard Hawks film and the old British fish out of water angle, then by all means pick up The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman. Otherwise, maybe give it a pass.