Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
Maggie O'Farrell
3 / 5

Published 2006

First Sentence
"Let us begin with two girls at a dance."
Publisher's 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 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..
Dear Reader,

Gosh, I still don't really know how I feel about this book.  I thought that it ultimately turned out to be a really interesting examination of siblinghood (is that a word?  I want it to be one) and the parallels and differences which crop up between and amongst generations.  This novel was another Overdrive audiobook find, and one which I had been looking forward to for a while, because the cover and blurb looked promising.  But, unfortunately, it was kind of a disappointing read.  It started off well, with two strong female leads (one an endearing willful child), but many messy family stories later, it felt kind of weaker to me.

I did like that two very shocking revelations weren't things I had guessed from page 1, and yet they seemed feasible enough, not out of left field.

...All right, Reader, this is silly.  I finished this book weeks ago, but haven't wanted to finish writing this review; I've let  the above sit in my drafts for what feels like ages now.  I guess that means I just don't have much to say about this book.  Hmm.  I enjoyed it, don't get me wrong, and I wouldn't advise anyone to avoid reading it.  It was a fun diverson book, but the substance of it was just a bit disappointing, considering the promising premise.  I did enjoy the period parts quite a bit; Esme was a strong, independent girl who was essentially punished for being the kind of woman many of us value today - a thinker, a reader, a woman who wanted more from life than simply to be married off.  I think I would have wanted to be her friend, had we encountered each other in childhood.  I think what might have bothered me most about the book were the parts about Iris, the bits of the book that were about the modern-day woman who seemed unmoored and uncertain about herself.  So much so that she constantly got herself into bad situations.  I guess I had hoped that her meeting Esme would have made her reexamine her own life, and perhaps it did a bit, but not enough to change her kind of whiny, self-pitying life.  There, I think I've pegged it: I did love the parts about Esme, and how her story was revealed - even the weird broken-up parts where someone was speaking in fragments and it was rather difficult to follow.  The parts about Iris, however, who I originally thought were good (she is a single woman who runs a vintage shop!) ended up just being frustrating and I felt as if they were left pretty unresolved.  Therein lies my problem with the book, I think.

All right, I'm going to sign off now so I can post this before I finish my next book!  Oy.


1 comment:

  1. Siblinghood SHOULD be a word! Too bad the book didn't live up to the expectations. Good review!


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