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The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (2006)

by Maggie O'Farrell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,5891704,015 (3.82)313
Moving between the 1930s and the present, Maggie O'Farrell's new novel is an unforgettable portrait of a woman edited out of her family's history. The heartbreaking tale of two sisters in colonial India and Edinburgh bound together by loneliness and driven apart by rivalries that lead to a cruel betrayal, it is also the gripping story of how, 60 years later, their shocking secret comes to light. An impassioned, intense, haunting family drama, this novel is a stunning imagining of a life stolen, and reclaimed.… (more)
  1. 30
    The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: Maggie O'Farrell says that The Yellow Wallpaper was a major influence in writng The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
  2. 20
    The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (Eowyn1)
  3. 20
    The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (rbtanger)
    rbtanger: Very similar in tone and several thematic elements.
  4. 20
    Miss Garnet's Angel by Salley Vickers (JenMDB)
  5. 10
    Annie's Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg (amyblue)
  6. 00
    The Other Side of You by Salley Vickers (jm501)
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» See also 313 mentions

English (161)  Spanish (4)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (2)  French (1)  All languages (170)
Showing 1-5 of 161 (next | show all)
Maggie O'Farrell is a master storyteller, and this book is no exception. Iris, a single woman, receives a call about an elderly woman named Euphemia, who has been in a long-term mental health facility. Iris has no recognition of the name or her relationship to this person, but she pursues the information. What she discovers is unsettling, and she uncovers a number of family secrets that destroy everything she thought was true. These are well-developed characters with an absorbing evolving plot. ( )
  pdebolt | Nov 2, 2020 |
This was a great read and everyone in my book club enjoyed it. Iris - a 20-something woman is suddenly informed that she has the power of attorney for her great aunt, Esme Lennox—who Iris never knew existed. Esme has been locked away in a mental institution for over 60 years—a fact never mentioned by her sister Kitty, Iris' grandmother, who now has Alzheimer's. Because it tells the story from 3 points of view, Iris, Esme & Kitty it can be a bit hard to follow at times, especially since Kitty has Alzheimer's. However, I think that makes the story more interesting. This is a great book to discuss with a book group. ( )
  baruthcook | Aug 26, 2020 |
2.5 ( )
  gumnut25 | Apr 21, 2020 |
I loved this book. The writing style was unique and the storyline mesmerizing. Twists and turns and an ending that leaves you wondering. ( )
  Jeanene_KP | Apr 6, 2020 |
A nicely told story of the damage caused by superstition (religion) on the lives of women in the recent past in the British Isles. ( )
  ghefferon | Nov 26, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 161 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maggie O'Farrellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Alemany, JosepTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Much Madness is divinest Sense--

To a discerning eye--

Much Sense--the starkest Madness--

'Tis the Majority

In this, as All, prevail--

Assent--and you are sane--

Demur--and you're straightaway dangerous--

And handled with a Chain--

Emily Dickinson
I couldn't have my happiness made out of a wrong-- an unfairness-- to somebody else . . . What sort of a life could we build on such foundations?

Edith Wharton
Dedication
for Saul Seamus
First words
Let us begin with two girls at a dance.
Quotations
This girl is remarkable to her. She is a marvel. From all her family – her and Kitty and Hugo and all the other babies and her parents – from all of them, there is only this girl. She is the only one left. They have all narrowed down to this black-haired girl sitting o the sand, who has no idea that her hands and her eyes and the tilt of her head and the fall of her hair belong to Esme's mother. 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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Moving between the 1930s and the present, Maggie O'Farrell's new novel is an unforgettable portrait of a woman edited out of her family's history. The heartbreaking tale of two sisters in colonial India and Edinburgh bound together by loneliness and driven apart by rivalries that lead to a cruel betrayal, it is also the gripping story of how, 60 years later, their shocking secret comes to light. An impassioned, intense, haunting family drama, this novel is a stunning imagining of a life stolen, and reclaimed.

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Book description
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 over sixty 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 labeled harmless—sane enough to coexist with the rest of the world. But Esme’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?

Maggie O’Farrell’s intricate tale of family secrets, lost lives, and the freedom brought by truth will haunt readers long past its final page.
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