The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farell came on my radar when I found many reviews by fellow Book Reviewers on Instagram. There was something about the cover that stuck in my head, and when I saw it in the bookshop, I bought it thinking that I’ve seen it somewhere.
You know the way your brain keeps pinging you that you’re forgetting something but you don’t know what? I felt that with this book.
Anyway, this was my first story by the Irish-British author and before I begin this review, I have to mention that Maggie O’Farell writes hauntingly beautiful stories.
You’re transported to this landscape covered in fog and with each step you take, the characters and plot become clearer and clearer. I don’t know how else to describe that sensation.
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is described as a Family Drama/Fiction but I think it is a great thriller/mystery novel.
“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.”
There are many complexities in this story, a lot of family drama, secrets and throughout the book the narration jumps between the point of views of three main female characters: Iris, Esme and Kitty.
“It is a terrible thing to want something you cannot have. It takes you over. I couldn’t think straight because of it…”
Esme and Kitty are two sisters brought up in a time when society and propriety went hand in hand, and are being taught to be respectful ladies to make good connections. Kitty being the older one, is more obedient and eager to please, while Esme has the rebellious flare in her.
“Her grandmother keeps announcing that Esme will never find a husband if she doesn’t change her ways. Yesterday, when she said it at breakfast, Esme replied “Good” and was sent to finish her meal in the kitchen.”
Her parents don’t treat her well either, and due to an incident that happened to her at a dance, they commit her to an asylum, while her sister; Kitty, lets it happen.
Fast forward 60 years later, the asylum is closing and Iris is contacted to pick her up, as she is listed in next of kin. Why her? Well she is the granddaughter of Kitty, and despite never knowing about Esme’s existence or whereabouts, she is shocked, surprised, but eventually brings her back home.
To the exact home where Esme was once forced to leave for the asylum.
“She walks slowly. She wants to feel the prick, the push of every bit of gravel under her shoe. She wants to feel every scratch, every discomfort of this….her leaving walk.”
In this way, the missing links of Esme’s story are revealed, along with Kitty’s perspective and the darkest secrets of the Lennox family are revealed which have surprising revelations for Iris as well.
Can I just say, this book is a mind blowing puzzle which the author fits together perfectly. It can be confusing in the beginning, but trust me, it all makes sense in the end.
The air of mystery, the many questions you may have, all are revealed. Except for the one main question right at the end.
This is the one book where I wish there were 100 pages more. The ending leaves you at cliffhanger.
I still want to know what became of Esme and Iris in the end.
Similarly, cannot help but compare this story to The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, the two seem a bit familiar although the latter has a Sci-Fi element to it, read the review here.
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is unforgettable. Maggie O’Farell is a genius and in less than 300 pages she made sure to satiate thriller, family drama, mystery and fiction lovers.
Onto the basics:
- Rating: 5.0/5.0
- Favorite quote: “It was always the meaningless tasks that endure: the washing, the cooing, the clearing, the cleaning.”
- Reader level: I’d say it is somewhere in the middle.
- Should you read:
- Would I read it again: Indeed, I will. Writing this review has made me want to pick it up again.
Till next time,