Myra's Reviews > The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell
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's review
May 07, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: adult-lit-2008
Recommended to Myra by: Tara

I borrowed this book from my friend Tara, and was it ever a great recommendation!

The very nature of this novel makes it a hard one to do a review on without giving away the best parts of the book. As the story unfolds that surrounds Esme, Iris, and Kitty, the words and feelings have a way of touching the reader quite deeply. As I was making my way through this novel, there came a point where the story held me captive and pushed my emotions to the front, like nothing I've read in quite some time. Many other reviewers have said this, and I will repeat it: this story will haunt you long after you read the last word, and you will find yourself teasing out the meaning of the ending even days after you've finished it.

Maggie O'Farrell's story of secrets, lies, lost time, and freedom gained by truth is a most superb and remarkable one. There is so much about the human condition that can be learned and teased from its pages.

I'm not sure if anyone will read this review, but I'm wondering what any of you might have thought of Kitty after finishing this book? :)
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
April 30, 2008 – Finished Reading
May 7, 2008 – Shelved
June 5, 2016 – Shelved as: adult-lit-2008

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Tara I thought Kitty got what she deserved, although it was a long time coming. She was shallow and selfish. Jealous of her sister, Esme, because of one suitor who took a liking to Esme while Kitty had several other beaus to choose from, she just chose poorly. Kitty's anger over the disappointment of her husband was, again, diverted to Esme. For something so trivial she would turn her back on her sister forever and rob her of her life in the most cold display of indifference.

Actually, I think Kitty may have been jealous of Esme since birth. Esme had more spirit and dared to speak and do whatever she pleased while Kitty was the more reserved and obedient daughter.

I could have a long discussion about even just this one aspect of the book. Too much to type out. We'll have to chat in person about it sometime. :)


I actually felt bad for Kitty- she wanted love and banished/dismissed the one person who loved her unconditionally. She would never get James to fall in love with her, her own marriage was one of convience (for the husband), and she could never truly enjoy her son Robert- because he wasn't hers. I think it's easy for modern women (especially American) to judge Kitty, but look at her choices in the context of the time. Life in the UK post victorian age was much more conservative than America! At 22 and unmarried she was getting 'old', and it seems her father at least agreed/encouraged the idea of adopting Robert. I think of Kitty as almost being an Ophelia like character- she was never taught to think for herself, and the one female in her life that did speak her mind (Esme) was cleary not tolerated. None of the women in this story have much power- not even Iris, her relationship with Alex is an example of that. Granted Kitty made terrible choices- I think its no mistake that in the end she was suffering from mental illness, but in the end I see it less a judgement on her and more on the society that bred this tragedy.
'A sister is more important than an eye' - Barbara Kingsolver

3GirlsMom Women were treasured for looks and their willingness to conform. Kitty was conventional in all ways and it didn't bring her the happiness she was "promised". She didn't have the strength of character to live by her own rules. Her guilt and disappointment overwhelmed her and finally poisoned her life. As she had lived her life doing as she was told by other people, she was able to pawn off everything that happened as the fault of someone else: chiefly Esme. She was a product of her times but not an innocent victim.

TAMMY CUEVAS SPOILER ALERT - Here's my question: Did Kitty actually have Alzheimer's, or was this the weight of the guilt she had carried all those years? Imagine keeping that secret and keeping your stories straight for sixty years. That could cause anyone confusion. And I agree; Kitty was selfish, envious from the time of Esme's birth, manipulative, and dishonest with herself.

Myra Tammy, my feeling is that Kitty didn't actually have Alzheimer's.


Monica TAMMY wrote: "SPOILER ALERT - Here's my question: Did Kitty actually have Alzheimer's, or was this the weight of the guilt she had carried all those years? Imagine keeping that secret and keeping your stories..."

...wonderful question

Lynda Kelly I think Alex was right, she was a bitch !!

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