The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie OFarrell

Do As You Are Told, Or Else...

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 shes 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. Features: * Click here to view our Condition Guide and Shipping Prices Most children have heard that threat at some time or other in response to something they did. They are scolded more often by a strict parent, if they tend to be of a more rebellious and independent nature. Esme Lennox was

such a child while her older sister, Kitty, was the affable, docile one who fitted the expected role for a young lady of the time, the nineteen thirties. Maggie O'Farrell spins a fascinating story web around the sisters, reaching from childhood into the present when Kitty's granddaughter, Iris, is suddenly confronted with evidence of a family member she had known nothing about. Revealing the complex relationships between the sisters and their surroundings through layers of memories and flashbacks, interspersed into the narrative of the present day events, the author has created a human drama that is unique while not uncommon in its time. Her writing is spare, yet elegant and beautifully expressive. It is one of those books I found difficult to put down until the dramatic end with the lucidly developed characters lingering in my mind. After a carefree and protected childhood in India, only overshadowed by the death of their baby brother, the girls move with their parents to Edinburgh to live with their strict Scottish grandmother. While Esme's rebellious tendencies were tolerable for a child, now as a teenager, she is constantly told how to behave and reminded that her purpose in life is to find a good husband. Esme, however, has other ideas, such as staying on in school and learning a profession. Nevertheless she accompanies Kitty to all the "afternoon teas" and society balls where prospective suitors may be encountered, until that one dance... The novel opens with it, although not really. Society in those days, and in Britain into the 1950s, had a number of ways of dealing with rebellious young people who refused to fit into the family's schemes. Without much fuss, girls could be declared "in need for treatment" to deal with some undefined mental condition, only to disappear in an institution for years and, often forgotten, for the rest of their lives. Esme had vanished until some sixty one years later the institution closed and her grandniece Iris was landed with the decision on what to do with her. Is she mad? Could she be dangerous? Questions that Iris has to confront. And Kitty, her still living sister? Afflicted by Alzheimer's she has flashback's of her own, haphazard, confusing, and with her own version of what happened all those years ago. O'Farrell brilliantly captures the mental conditions of the two sisters, both have to return to events in their childhood and youth, that so dramatically forced their lives into directions that made their relationship difficult to reconcile. In Iris's story, while her life so far has also been complicated, - may be she is represents a modern version of Esme - her character is less well imagined and developed leaving me to give the novel 4.5 stars. [Friederike Knabe]

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