HomeGroupsTalkMoreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (2006)

by Maggie O'Farrell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,6521734,040 (3.82)317
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. 40
    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. 30
    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)
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 317 mentions

English (164)  Spanish (4)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (2)  French (1)  All languages (173)
Showing 1-5 of 164 (next | show all)
What is madness? Esme Lennox was left in a mental institution for 60 years. Was she mad? Is she mad now, after 60 years of a life interrupted?

This is a truly well written book, with different voices and view points, and a very non-linear narrative, weaving past and present. It is never preachy; still it makes us reflect on insanity, sexuality, memory, conformity, love, family bonds, maternal love – or the lack of it – morality, feminism, envy and retribution …
Such big questions!

I can see why some reviewers complain of the lack of a more orthodox ending. Although I didn’t perceive the end to be so open as some claim. But I understand that is difficult to be left with questions as these. It would be easier to have them answered for us…

I heard it in audio format, with a narration by Daniella Nardini. Her narration was impeccable and I believe it added to my pleasure of this book.
( )
  RosanaDR | Apr 15, 2021 |
Digital audiobook performed by Anne Flosnik
2.5**

From the book jacket: 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 had 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.

My reactions
There’s so much going on here I hardly know where to start. There’s the mystery of Esme’s commitment to the mental hospital and Kitty’s having kept her sister’s existence a secret all these years. There’s Iris’s mess of a love life (which really is superfluous to the main story). There’s the additional intrigue of Iris’s “brother, who is really no blood relation” Alex.

I thought it was rather melodramatic as well as being disjointed, but that ending – that wonderfully ambiguous and ethereal ending! Well, she got an extra half-star for that final scene.

Annie Flosnik does a reasonably good job of narrating the audio. Her diction is clear and she sets a good pace. But the style of the book really does not lend itself to an audio performance. O’Farrell writes this in snippets and vignettes, moving back and forth between present-day and the past. In the text, different fonts are used, which might help the reader recognize the jumps in time / narrator. But on audio no such clues are present, which makes it doubly confusing. ( )
  BookConcierge | Mar 28, 2021 |
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox centers on 3 women and spans two different time periods. Much of it is quite disjointed (purposefully so I reckon) and there's quite a bit of jumping around between points of view and time periods. And there are no chapter breaks so this flip flopping is accomplished through page breaks instead. The reader follows Iris, Esme, and Kitty in the present day as well as their remembrances of past events. Iris is a young woman running a secondhand clothing store who has a very unusual romantic life. (I thought about adding this to the trigger warning at the bottom but in the end decided not to. You'll have to read the book for yourself to see if you agree with my decision.) Kitty is Iris's grandmother who is suffering from Alzheimer's and living in a nursing home. Her POV is full of jumbled and incomplete recollections from her past. Many of those revolve around her sister Esme who is certainly billed as the primary character but is the one I feel like I didn't fully comprehend. I'm afraid of giving too much away but since this is in the blurb I feel like it's okay to tell you that when we meet Esme in the present day she has been locked away in a psychiatric hospital for SIXTY-ONE YEARS. Let that sink in for a moment. O'Farrell is clearly looking to start a discussion about the injustices women suffered not so long ago when they were shut away in these institutions by their families for infractions like crying too much, talking back to their husbands, or disobedience to their parents. (I'd be in a lot of trouble if I lived back then.) I've read other books that delve into the topic of wrongful imprisonment in mental facilities (one book was nonfiction and written by a reporter who disguised herself as a patient) but none where the patient was away for so long before being released.

I picked this one up solely because I loved O'Farrell's writing in Hamnet and I wanted more of that delicious prose. This is one of her earlier works and so has a very different literary style (I'm now thinking this could be deliberate because of the subject matter). This hasn't put me off exploring more of her writing in the least. I honestly don't know if I can say that I either liked or disliked The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. It's one of those books that when you close the cover you say aloud, "What was that?". So because I'm on the fence I'm giving this one a 5/10. 😬

Trigger warning: sexual assault and enforced imprisonment. ( )
  AliceaP | Jan 11, 2021 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 164 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maggie O'Farrellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Alemany, JosepTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Flosnik, AnneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

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.

No library descriptions found.

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.
Haiku summary

Quick Links

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.82)
0.5 2
1 12
1.5 2
2 39
2.5 12
3 182
3.5 76
4 381
4.5 62
5 163

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 159,015,427 books! | Top bar: Always visible