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The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie…
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The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (original 2006; edition 2007)

by Maggie O'Farrell

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Title:The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
Authors:Maggie O'Farrell
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The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell (2006)

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http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2330902.html

A short but intense book about family histories echoing and suddenly climaxing across the decades, with Esme and her great-niece Iris suddenly discovering each other's existence and forced to navigate two different generations' poisoned sibling relationships. Esme is a particularly fascinating creation, institutionalised for no good reason for sixty years, then forced to come to terms with a new world - and finding this a reason to explore her own past in more detail. A very short book that packs a heck of a punch. ( )
  nwhyte | Jul 29, 2014 |
An interesting book, although a bit hard to follow at times. A story about a young girl who was a bit "different" but certainly not psychotic who was locked away in an asylum for 61 years against her will. Hard to imagine something like this could happen in the mid-1960s when I'd have thought the world was a bit more compassionate. ( )
  bibliophileofalls | May 28, 2014 |
This is a fascinating insight to a particular time and place. I would have loved to hear more about Esme and whether she actually did have any mental illness. Who made Iris her next of kin? I was not too sure about that. This book ended too soon for me, I wanted (needed?) to know what happened to Esme and Iris. A great book.
  Debspage | Mar 23, 2014 |
I don't know what I was doing when this book came out, but boy did I miss a good one! This is the story of Iris a single young woman who possibly is in love with her step brother (just as an aside). Iris is contacted by an insane asylum regarding the release of a great aunt, Esme, Iris never even knew existed. The story goes back and forth beautifully between the childhood of Esme and Kitty (Iris' grandmother who is in a nursing home for Alzheimer's) and the present life of the three women. At first it was a bit confusing to figure out who was "talking" when as there are no different fonts to distinguish the storytellers, but you quickly figure out who's point of view the story is coming from.
I read this book in less than 24 hours, a new record for me as I am a slow reader, but I just could not put this down. The writing was superb! The author really kept you engaged throughout the story. There is scandal, mystery, twists and turns to be had. ( )
  campingmomma | Mar 6, 2014 |
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is a bit like a three-legged stool; two of the legs are sturdy, but the one that isn't brings the structure crashing to the floor. The entwined tale of two sisters, Esme and Kitty, would have made an intriguing story on its own, as O'Farrell's interest clearly lies with exploring these characters and elucidating the devastating effects that social strictures had on women in the early to mid-20th century. I wasn't bothered by Kitty's stream of consciousness ramblings nor the shifts in time and place, and felt that they lent texture to what is essentially a straightforward plot. I was, however, left completely cold by the story set in the present that focused on Esme's only living relative, Iris. Iris has three salient characteristics: she runs a vintage clothing shop, which takes up surprisingly little of her energy and comes across as an afterthought on the author's part; she is having an affair with a married man; and she has had a quasi-incestuous affair with her stepbrother which has never totally ended (although they aren't actually related, they were raised as brother and sister for a few years). And that's it for Iris, aside from one other plot point that exists solely to tie her and Esme together. It's hard to believe that an editor wouldn't have suggested jettisoning Iris and developing the twin poles of the far more compelling narrative centered on Esme and Kitty. Although Kitty does some despicable things to Esme, O'Farrell provides enough background and nuance for the reader to understand why she may have done them. No such subtlety animates Iris, an automaton whose clockwork motions (her dog doesn't even warrant a name) drag the story to a halt whenever she appears. ( )
1 vote coltonium | Feb 19, 2014 |
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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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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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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0151014116, Hardcover)

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 labeled 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?

A gothic, intricate tale of family secrets, lost lives, and the freedom brought by truth, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox will haunt you long past its final page.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:04 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

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. A family member 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?… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

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