Lindsay's Reviews > The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell
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's review
Sep 03, 2008

really liked it
Read in September, 2008

The human brain is a tricky thing and O'Farrell has provided readers with a fascinating look into the psyche of three women in "The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox." Iris learns of her great aunt's existence when the mental institution in which Esme has been living for the past 60 years contacts her about its upcoming closure. Her inability to go on living as though this woman never existed begins the unraveling of a dark family mystery that few could ever imagine possible.

Although female "hysteria" is more a hallmark of the nineteenth century, O'Farrell's book sheds light on how misunderstood mental illness has been even in the first half of the twentieth century and especially for women. This slim novel is told from the perspective of three very different women: Iris, her grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s, and her great aunt Esme. Part memory, part story, and part stream of consciousness, this novel is as captivating as it is haunting.

I will say that I was disappointed in the ending mostly because even sitting here at this very moment I am not sure exactly what happened. As a reader, I can handle ambiguity and have no problem using my imagination, but I read the final pages three times without grasping what they were attempting to convey. This prevented me from being able to give the book five stars, something I desperately wanted to do. However, I would still recommend this book because it is a powerful reminder of how far we have come and how far we have to go in order to truly understand ourselves and accept all the different kinds of people around us.
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06/05/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy I totally agree with you.

Nancy I do too - I was listening to it and it just... ended? I hate to sound dumb, but I'm not even sure what really happend!

message 3: by Iris (new) - added it

Iris Esme killed Kitty, I would say..

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