The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, by Maggie O’Farrell

My good friend Carol gave me this book to read. Since we happen to like a lot of the same novels and I trust her judgment, I set aside my recently acquired library finds and dug into this book. The story centers around three primary characters: Iris, Esme and Kitty. Kitty and Esme are sisters and Iris is Kitty’s granddaughter.

At the beginning of the story Iris receives a call from a psychiatric hospital about her great-aunt, Esme, whom she never knew existed.  When she goes to see her great-aunt and take her home, family secrets buried for years are brought to light.  That’s all I will tell you since I don’t want to give any plot points away.

I found the plot captivating. I literally could not put the book down. I started it last night and finished it this afternoon. The story vascillates between the past and present and is told alternately by the three main characters. The only confusion I had was when the story was being told from Kitty’s viewpoint.  She doesn’t stick to one thought – she rambles and goes off on tangents. She starts a story and ends it, only to pick it back up on a much later page. For the reader it makes it a bit difficult. But I do understand why the author chose to write this way, since Kitty suffers from Alzheimers, therefore I thought it was awfully clever.

The story has no chapter breaks which I also found interesting.

I will say that the story was incredibly heart breaking. Maybe one of the saddest stories I’ve read.

But overall, it was a fantastic book. Maggie O’Farrell writes with an incredible attention to detail. Her language is beautiful and her descriptions are spot on.  At times I could absolutely see or feel what she was describing.

I would definitely recommend this book.

However,  if you are looking for a lighthearted read or a pick me up, this probably isn’t the book for you.


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