2009: 10. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

“Let us begin with two girls at a dance.”

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, Maggie O’Farrell

This was my book club’s February choice (recommended by the fabulous Ellen Lynch, a top-notch book picker) and we collectively recommend it highly, so if one yes is not enough for you, take it as a nine person thumbs up (which is eighteen thumbs!).  It is, perhaps not the most original story - it tells of a woman, Esme Lennox, who was put into a mental hospital by her family and forgotten for the next seventy years, until the institution is closed and they contact her great-niece, Iris, who didn’t even know that she existed until she got the call.  While this is a tale that has been told before, O’Farrell tells her version with a sure hand and it is a pleasure to read.  The novel flashes back and forth from Iris’s discovery of Esme, to Esme’s past and the story of why she was institutionalized.  While the time shifting format is a device which often drives me batty, I thought that here worked - the unfolding of Esme’s story seemed richer by being given in small doses and pieces.  While there were elements of the story that didn’t work for me (a lot of Iris’s life story seemed a bit irrelevant), all in all this was a book that I really enjoyed and would recommend to anyone, particularly if you enjoy the kinds of stories that involve the unfolding of complicated family and human histories.


Date/Place Completed: February 2009, D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, Book Club

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017