Quick Review: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell

Title: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
Author: Maggie O’Farrell
Publish Date: 17 May 2007
Publisher: Headline Review
Pages: 288
Genre: drama, mystery, 1930s
Source: bought, finished copy

In the middle of tending to the everyday business at her vintage-clothing shop and sidestepping her married boyfriend’s attempts at commitment, Iris Lockhart receives a stunning phone call: Her great-aunt Esme, whom she never knew existed, is being released from Cauldstone Hospital—where she has been locked away for more than sixty-one years.

Iris’s grandmother Kitty always claimed to be an only child. But Esme’s papers prove she is Kitty’s sister, and Iris can see the shadow of her dead father in Esme’s face.

Esme has been labelled harmless—sane enough to coexist with the rest of the world. But she’s still basically a stranger, a family member never mentioned by the family, and one who is sure to bring life-altering secrets with her when she leaves the ward. If Iris takes her in, what dangerous truths might she inherit?


Why read this book?

  • The chapters use complex changing narratives with perceptions from various characters: Esme and Kitty both as children and in the present and Iris in the present.  The book reads like poetry, such beauty is described in an elegant style, especially in Esme’s chapters.
  • Esme was a unique child who did not conform to societies wishes in the 1930s and that is why she ended up locked in a mental asylum for the majority of her life. The Vanishing of Esme Lennox centres around this family secret and the difficulties it has caused through the generations.
  • Past civilisation and psychological mysteries is pretty fascinating and this book displayed a balance of both.
  • The journey through the story was very moving and it was definitely the devastating revelations and treatment towards Esme that will make you rage at this book.

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