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The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie…
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The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (2006)

by Maggie O'Farrell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,4591593,738 (3.82)298
  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. 30
    The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (rbtanger)
    rbtanger: Very similar in tone and several thematic elements.
  3. 20
    The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (Eowyn1)
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    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 298 mentions

English (151)  Spanish (3)  Catalan (2)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  All languages (159)
Showing 1-5 of 151 (next | show all)
The writing places the reader in a perspective where you may or may not understand the subject's point of view. A good read because it gets you thinking. ( )
  godmotherx5 | Apr 5, 2018 |
I really enjoyed this book. For a comparatively short book, there was a lot woven into this story.
There is, of course, first and foremost Esme's story but there is also the life that Iris leads and what you learn of her childhood. Kitty's marriage is a small but vital part of the book. And, just in case you thought the book was all about women, there is Alex, Iris's "brother" who has an interesting past as well.

I've never read anything else by this writer so I went looking on the web for more information. I found this web site which has a reading guide for this book and a biography and interview of the writer. She has been incubating this story for years and I think it shows in the tightness of the narrative despite the years spanned by the book. ( )
1 vote gypsysmom | Aug 7, 2017 |
While plot is well-written and offers illuminations regarding incarceration and treatment of mental patients,
this book is needlessly and repeatedly confusing:

...why was her mother so angry with her on discovering her servant and brother's death from typhoid?
The impression remains that Esme somehow caused their deaths.

...what accounts for Kitty turning so far against her sister that she takes her baby and refuses to visit her?

...why is the ending so ridiculously abstruse? did Esme kill Kitty or not? Why a secret?

if she did, does that make her as insane as people believed she was for 60 years?
or did the 60 years create a killer insanity? Or? Or?

None of the characters were appealing except Alex who at least had a sense of humor. ( )
  m.belljackson | Jul 13, 2017 |
Intriguing sad story. The story begins with the two sisters, Kitty and Esme. Soon we learn that Esme has been committed to a woman's asylum. But is she really insane? Told from the different characters points on view, sometimes in a jumbled fashion of memories, Iris, Esme and Kitty weave the tale between Scotland and India, about how non-conforming behavior got Esme committed, but is she a bit insane too? ( )
  nancynova | Jun 7, 2017 |
Poor, poor Esme. Locked away in an asylum at 16 for 60+ years for no reason really. Her whole life, snatched away from her, her child, her family - everything just gone for the length of a life time.

As previous reviewers of this book have mentioned, its best to just get immersed into this book without an preconceptions, without knowing too much and going on Esme's journey with her. Along the way, we meet and get to know Kitty - Esme's sister, whom I'm not very fond of. Also her parents, again, I found to not be very nice people. And Iris, who gets the phone call about her great-aunt Esme who she has never heard of and who is being released from a psychiatric unit as the hospital is closing down. This news is of a shock to her but she has to find out if Esme is actually related to her and what to do with her essentially.

The writing style of this book through me initially. I started reading this book before bed and thought I would read to the end of the first chapter.... ermm, what chapter!? There aren't any! But that didn't stop the book flowing, the only difficulty it made for me was knowing when to stop reading. Instead of reading for 10-15 mins, an hour later, I was still holding this little book in the dim light of my lamp ploughing through the pages!

Before starting the book, I'd obviously read the back of it, but I just needed to see how it was going to develop, a thirst for what was going to happen to Esme and how she ended up in the psychiatric unit in the first place. The characters were just excellent, you get a real feel for each of them, how they think, what they are like.

And the ending, I had to re-read it, 3 times actually. Before the realisation dawned on me on what actually had happened!! And to me, it was well written and an appropriate ending for the terrific book. ( )
  Nataliec7 | May 30, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 151 (next | show all)
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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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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

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:38 -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)

» see all 8 descriptions

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