Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell



  • Paperback: 245 pages
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Publisher: Headline 2006 
  • Source: A surprise from another Bookcrosser
  • First Sentence : ‘Let us begin with two girls at a dance.’
  • A Favourite Quote: "We are all, Esme decides, just vessels through which identities pass: we are lent features, gestures, habits, then we hand them on. Nothing is our own. We begin in the world as anagrams of our antecedents".
  • Review Quote : The novel is brilliant in every way . Maggie O'Farrell has written a taut, fragile mystery of relationships and deception. --Literary Review
  • My Opinion: Enjoyable but disturbing.


    Very short and therefore for me anyway a quick read. Although it was an enjoyable read it is also disturbing. I know it is fiction but it left me wondering how families were able to treat members that did not conform to the norms of society in such a way. How an earth did they justify their actions.

    Esme Lennox had a troubled childhood and had she been born in our modern day era she would certainly never have been treated in such an appalling way. She is sent to an asylum in the 1930’s by her parents who have found her somewhat eccentric behaviour impossible to deal with any longer!   Some sixty years later it was decided to close such asylums and residents were released into the community, with the guidance of relations if possible. Enter the other protagonist Iris Lockhart who did not even know of the existence of her great aunt Esme until she is contacted as the next of kin. Her initial reaction is not surprisingly to steer clear of any involvement with a person she has never met. Curiosity however makes Iris decide to meet Esme and inevitably she finds that she does care about what is going to happen to her. After all she is her great aunt and she does not seem to be a lunatic. As they get to know each other Iris discovers that Esme is able to tell her things about her family that she had absolutely no idea about. for instance Iris had no idea that her own mother Kit, the third narrator in the story, even had a sister. Iris’s complicated modern life shows just how much times have changed for single young women since the thirties. Iris has the freedom to live her life as she wishes with behaviour that would have been frowned upon in the era when Esme was sent away for less.

  • A very sad story of familial deception with an ending that left me wondering about its abruptness, but I think this is probably what the author intended

  • Maggie O'FarrellAuthor photo

    Maggie O’Farrell was born in Coleraine, Northern Ireland in 1972, and grew up in Wales and Scotland. She now lives in London with her family. An author of  contemporary fiction, who features in Waterstones' 25 Authors for the Future. It is possible to identify several common themes in her novels - the relationship between sisters is one, another is loss and the psychological impact of those losses on the lives of her characters.


    Maggie O'Farrell - Official Website

    Goodreads Profile - Maggie O'Farrell Where the author photo and biographical information is from.

    This is the fourth novel I have read by Maggie O’Farrell and the most interesting, here is the link to my earlier review of The Distance Between Us.


    1. Lovely review, LindylouMac

      I loved this novel.My favourite by this author.


    2. I really enjoyed this book too. It was especially good for discussing with my book club. I've never read any of her other novels so I may have to check out The Distance Between Us.

    3. DizzyC, Thankyou, I think this my favourite one of hers as well.

      Julie@ You may be interested in checking out my review then.

    4. LindyLouMac great review, I loved this novel, and also The Hand that First Held Mine, have you read that one? She is a good author.


    5. Lindsay@ Thankyou, glad you liked it. No I have not yet read the title you mention, have you reviewed it?

    6. I have this on my shelf at home. I think the premise is fascinating and now I'm looking forward to it even more.

    7. Melissa@ I will be looking forward to your comments.

    8. I haven't reviewed it on my blog, but I may have reviewed it on amazon, I will have to look back though!

    9. Lindsay@ Thanks I will take a look on Amazon.

    10. Correction: Kitty is Iris's grandmother not mother.

      1. Whoops thank you for pointing out the typing error!


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