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The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

Book rating: 05 Paperback

By (author) Maggie O'Farrell

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  • Publisher: HEADLINE REVIEW
  • Format: Paperback | 288 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 194mm x 24mm | 259g
  • Publication date: 13 January 2007
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0755308441
  • ISBN 13: 9780755308446
  • Sales rank: 6,646

Product description

THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX is vintage Maggie O'Farrell: a stunning imagining of a life stolen, and reclaimed. Edinburgh in the 1930s. The Lennox family is having trouble with its youngest daughter. Esme is outspoken, unconventional, and repeatedly embarrasses them in polite society. Something will have to be done. Years later, a young woman named Iris Lockhart receives a letter informing her that she has a great-aunt in a psychiatric unit who is about to be released. Iris has never heard of Esme Lennox and the one person who should know more, her grandmother Kitty, seems unable to answer Iris's questions. What could Esme have done to warrant a lifetime in an institution? And how is it possible for a person to be so completely erased from a family's history?

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Author information

Maggie O'Farrell is the author of six novels, AFTER YOU'D GONE, MY LOVER'S LOVER, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX, THE HAND THAT FIRST HELD MINE, which won the 2010 Costa Novel Award, and INSTRUCTIONS FOR A HEATWAVE, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Novel Award. She lives in Edinburgh.

Customer reviews

By Channellie 12 Jan 2012 5

Intrigued by the cover and the basic plot of the story, I was not at all disappointed.
I read this book within as a few sittings, as it was extremely hard to put down.

The story outlines 3 intriguing women and their often complex relationships with men and each other. Iris, the current day independent woman, Esme, the unconventional woman who was institutionalised because she was modern beyond the times, and Kitty, Esme's sister, strictly conventional and suffering from Alzheimer's disease (dementia).

The main pieces of the story are disclosed as puzzle pieces, scattered within the narration of each woman. This is particularly relevant for Kitty. Time contexts are blurred, as the reader travels from current day, to 1930's India and England within a chapter.

Thought-provoking, particularly relating to the past unethical and common treatment of young women who refused to conform to societal norms.

Highly recommend.

By amanda thomas 03 Sep 2011 5

a well wriiten story telling the sadness of a young gilr put in an asylum for no reason other than being a girl in the 20s...couldnt put it down read in 2 sittings.sad.

Review quote

Actually unputdownable, written with charge and energy and a kind of compelling drive, a clarity and a gripping dramatic insidiousness reminiscent of classic Daphne du Maurier Ali Smith O'Farrell's subtlety and delicate touch have never been so finely demonstrated Independent on Sunday Mesmerisingly good Daily Mail O'Farrell's story-telling skills ensure that this novel is compulsively readable, and delivers strong emotional punch Telegraph

Editorial reviews

When the willfully unattached Iris Lockhart receives a call about a great aunt she never met, her loner lifestyle gets woven into a much larger family drama.Iris may harbor a secret forbidden passion, but in her real-life affairs she prefers a detached approach. Therefore, when a call comes from the soon-to-close Cauldstone Hospital, asking what she would like to do with an elderly relative she didn't know existed, she is faced with more intimacy than she's comfortable with. Her great-aunt Esme, mistakenly called "Euphemia" by the staff, has been hospitalized for more than 60 years for various vague psychiatric disorders, at one point it seems for simply not wanting her hair to be cut. After Iris tries to place her, and recoils from the horrors of the recommended halfway house, she takes her into her own flat, carved out of the Scottish family's original grand home, on a trial basis. Over the course of one long weekend, that trial reveals truths about why Esme was hospitalized and why Iris never heard of her, and also delves into Iris's fear of intimacy as her married lover, Luke, teeters on the edge of leaving his wife. Relying on a complex structure that recalls O'Farrell's earlier work (My Lover's Lover, 2003, etc.), most of the book's present action is focused on Iris's day-to-day functioning. But this contemporary action is merely the finale of a drama that's been going on since Esme's youth in India. That story unfolds primarily through a series of inner monologues. Esme enjoys rediscovering some memories but avoids others, while her sister Kitty, now institutionalized with Alzheimer's, runs through old mistakes and excuses that still haunt her in her dementia. At times, these competing voices, each with a different take on exactly what happened, can be confusing, but by the novel's surprising ending, each has become clear. Despite occasional opacity, this slow-building, impressionistic work amply rewards dedicated readers with a moving human drama. (Kirkus Reviews)