December 10, 2008

Review: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
by Maggie O'Farrell

Iris Lockhart is an only child, the daughter of an only child, the granddaughter of an only child. At least that's what she's been told. That's why she is so careless about the notifications she's gotten about an elderly Great-Aunt that is being released from a "loony-bin" into her care. Over the course of a weekend Iris' life and identity will be turned upside down as she comes to know her "crazy" Aunt Esme and the depth of the family secrets that kept her locked away for over 60 years.

I liked it. Esme is a great character. She reminded me of Jo March from Little Women (I should read that again) but with a twist of lime. You can never really be sure if she's crazy or just misunderstood.

The way the story is laid out is interesting. There is Iris's modern perspective as she discovers from a place of ignorance, almost like the reader. She is distracted by her complicated life and unable to find any real answers. Then there is Esme's perspective from 60 years ago, sometimes coming as memories and sometimes not. Lastly there is the perspective of Iris's grandmother, Esme's sister Kitty, who is pretty far gone with Alzheimer's. Her thoughts jump from memory to memory to present. Though the reader learns some difficult truths about the Lennox family, you can never be sure that you have the correct or complete perspective.

The present tense writing took a little getting used to. So did the perspective changes and the lack of chapter breaks. But the story is so compelling that I kept going and adjusted quickly. There are only 245 pages with larger print and lots of white space in the margins so it was a fast read, or it would be for a fast reader. I would recommend reading it in one gulp if you can. I think the discovering of clues and the building of the storyline would work well all at once.

Like I said already, I liked it. The characters were real and the story was interesting. I recommend it. And it's only $6.49 at Amazon right now. What a deal!

Buy this book at Amazon.


CherryBlossomMJ said...

thanks for the note on White Christmas Pie, I hope your Grandma enjoys it. And I hope you enjoy Creative Madness.

J.Danger said...

I keep hearing about this one everywhere!

Jeane said...

The story sounds so complex I'm surprised it's rather short! So many good reviews about this one; I'll have to look for it.

Sarah said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this, as it was one of my books of last year. I'd also recommend O'Farrell's other novels starting with After you'd gone. I think she has a very strong ability to create characters who you really care about.

(As an aside, I can't say I'm keen on the US cover, which I hadn't seen until now. I definitely prefer the UK one.)

Elizabeth said...

Great review - I have this on my "to read really soon" stack, so now I'm even more excited.

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