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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful read!
This is the first Maggie O'Farrell book I've read and I loved it. Will definitely be reading more of her in the future.

I loved this book. I whizzed through it in a weekend it was so unputdownable. Although the author's writing style is kept very simple and the story is revealed through minimum facts, there is still something about it that really made me...
Published on 6 Jun 2007 by A Reader

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling...
I found this very readable and finished it within 24 hours. The horror story of Esme's incarceration is shocking because it is something that really happened to thousands of victims.

It is well-written and moves along at a good pace, and I enjoyed the switching between the present and past. O'Farrell has a gift for portraying the child's point of view and the...
Published on 29 Mar 2009 by M. C. Holliman


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite, 26 Aug 2010
By 
Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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I read a huge number of books every year, and although I read many which are fine, I rarely read any which are outstanding. When I find one I love to savour it, and this book is truly outstanding. It tells the story of Esme, a girl out of her time, whose failure to conform to standards of Edwardian social expectations lead her to be incarcerated in a mental hospital, labelled a schizophrenic.

Sixty years down the line the mental hospital is about to be closed down, and Esme's great niece, Iris, is contacted to see if she is willing to take on Esme's care. Iris is shocked, not even having known of Esme's existence in the first place, and so begins the interweaving of two totally different and yet intimately connected lives.

The story is powerful and yet told with such a sense of poetic grace and real beauty that it seems almost like reading someone's account of a dream. The prose is exquisite, there are some wonderful plot twists and I also liked the fact that the story was not neat and tidy in terms of answering all your questions as a reader. I am now going to read everything else I can get my hands on by O'Farrell.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunningly poignant, 8 Mar 2008
By 
The best book I have read for a very long time.

In the early 80s as a student nurse I came across an elderly female patient who had not spoken for 50 plus years at what was then Tooting Bec psychiatric hospital. It was said that she had been put in there by her parents having become pregnant at the age of 16 (& outside marriage) so this beautifully written story hit a particular nerve. What had become of her baby, no one said.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended, 8 Jun 2007
Maggie O'Farrell is a fantastic writer, with the ability to weave various strands of stories together in such a seamless manner. The Vanishing Act Of Esme Lennox was a moving, at times shocking book. I found Kitty's jumbled recollections particularly effective, and I felt angry and frustrated by Esme's plight - her only crime was to be a spirited child who was reluctant to follow the conventional path expected of her. The words just flowed off the pages. I loved this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic....til the end?!, 19 May 2007
By 
A. Field (Worcestershire) - See all my reviews
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I bought this book after finishing Maggies' raved over 'After You'd Gone' which I enjoyed immensly. Having studied the form here as to which to order next, I decided that Esme Lennox was the one. I couldn't agree more with previous reviews in that it was un-put-down-able!! The characterisation was fantastic, I learned to love Esme, and wanted to take her home myself. I have spent the weekend reading it and finished it tonight. I was so disappointed with the ending though!! I wasn't sure what I was expecting but it wasn't that....however it isn't going to stop me putting it straight in an envelope and posting it to a friend who I know will love it. Maybe I am suffering from lack of imagination, I just felt that it wasn't quite wrapped up enough for me, a bit like a fantastic film with a weird ending.Won't put me off buying more though!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant unravelling of a dark family secret, 17 Nov 2007
By 
WordWoman (Edinburgh, UK) - See all my reviews
I loved this book from the first page and couldn't put it down. The main story is that of an innocent young girl (Esme) locked up in an austere lunatic asylum and completely erased from her family's history, just for being a bit of an individual and refusing to "play the game" by conforming to strict society rules. I was desperate to discover the truth behind this tragic situation, and as I read on I was overwhelmed by the unfairness of it all, particularly as such things really were happening not so very long ago. The story is beautifully told from several different viewpoints, including the brilliant yet deliberately frustrating stream-of-consciousness ramblings of an elderly relative with Alzheimer's. The different voices are skilfully interwoven, and every page is packed with small observations that really bring the characters and events to life. The action jumps between colonial India and 30s and present-day Edinburgh, making it particularly resonant for me as an Edinburgh resident.
I knew nothing about Maggie O'Farrell before reading this, but now I've discovered what an accomplished writer she is I'll definitely be recommending her and looking out for her other books.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell, 8 Sep 2008
By 
This is a bookring that I joined and I am so glad I did

Synopsis:

Set between the 1930s,and the present, Maggie O'Farrell's new novel is the story of Esme, a woman edited out of her family's history, and of the secrets that come to light when, sixty years later, she is released from care, and a young woman, Iris, discovers the great aunt she never knew she had. The mystery that unfolds is the heartbreaking tale of two sisters in colonial India and 1930s Edinburgh - of the loneliness that binds them together and the rivalries that drive them apart, and lead one of them to a shocking betrayal - but above all it is the story of Esme, a fiercely intelligent, unconventional young woman, and of the terrible price she is made to pay for her family's unhappiness.
I read this book in a matter of hours, it was gripping, exciting and impossible to put down. This book caused a whole host of emotions as I read. I laughed and nearly cried at several parts of the book. My heart broke when I read what happened to Esme and I was disgusted and angry at her family.

My favourite characters where Iris and Esme, very similar characters I thought. I loved their passion and how they did as they pleased. Esme was so unconventional, not a typical 1930s girl and I admired her for taking a stand and being herself.

I enjoyed this book from page 1. The ending confused me a little but once I thought about it it made sense. It isn't how I would have ended the book but I still liked it.

I have never read Maggie O'Farrell before but I will definitely read more of her work. She dealt with issues of mental health, family, society and love delicately and extremely well.

10/10
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fastest read this year., 31 Oct 2007
By 
Theo (Oakham, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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The last book I read took me six weeks, and it was OK, this took 23 hours.... with some sleep and a family lunch thrown in. It totally gripped me.....
I loved her first book, I trusted a cover review which said this was her best since, they were right.
We are also having this as a book club choice later this month, with a guest attending, who works in the sort of area of which Esme was forced into. I think it will be very intersting to hear their views.
I loved the portrayal of Esme, and was very glad to read her 'result' at the end.
Kitty did a dreadful thing, but had been driven to it by the same attitude of the times and walls of silence which struck Esme. They were both victims of their current circumstances. I hope we will not look back on todays strictures and find them so wrong in 60 years time.
Things which seem so normal and desirable at the time, can reveal themselves to be damaging and rotten years later. This book might keep us looking out for such errors?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very moving read, 2 Jun 2008
By 
L. H. Healy "Books are life, beauty and truth." (Cambridgeshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a very moving and sad story of a lady, Esme, who is put into an institution by her family, and spends over sixty years of her life there. She only seems to be able to leave in the end because the place is being closed down.
The tale tells of little incidents during her childhood which her family frowned upon, when really she was just an expressive, inquisitive child who wanted something different for herself than being married off and having to put on all the airs and graces of her class. And for this she is punished by her cold family, who send her to be locked away. All those years later enter Iris, who didn't know of Esme's existence.

Intermingled with remembrances of the past, the story tells of the new relationship formed between Iris and Esme, and those around them. For me, an interesting parallel was drawn between the characteristics of the too of them.
It is not a very long read, and I think it was just perfect at the length it is. Very well written and unputdownable, thought-provoking and tragic.

So sad to think that this situation was a reality for many women too in times gone by?
I have read one previous novel by Maggie O'Farrell which I think I enjoyed but it wasn't terribly memorable. I think she has dramatically improved her writing with this book.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful writing, 23 Oct 2006
I have read all of Maggie O'Farrell's novels and, as ever, the lyrical quality of her writing is astounding. You have to stop whilst reading and admire her imagery. Yet none of this stops her from developing depth in her characters. We feel that we know Esme despite her 'vanishing' and we begin to understand her motivation to disappear. There is also the shocking information that in recent times people could be placed in asylums for so little reason except in some cases not conforming to society's norms. Leaving us wondering what happened to the other unfortunate victims of such a system?

As we contemplate the strange relationship between Esme and her sister, we are led to contrast it with the exceptional closeness of Iris and her step-brother, Alex. Is blood really thicker than water?

This is a satisfying read and, as another reviewer says, lingers in your mind after the last page is turned.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a haunting and powerful read., 7 Feb 2008
By 
Leyla Sanai "leyla" (glasgow) - See all my reviews
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What a powerful book. O'Farrell's deceptively simple style is perfect for narrating a shocking story like this which needs no stylistic embellishment. The way in which unruly young women were incarcerated for life in the past is potently brought to life by O'Farrell's use of the present tense and her way of conjuring up family life, which effortlessly transport the reader to the past. There are many themes covered subtly here as well as the horrific one of forced institutionalization and the cruelty that went on in psychiatric hospitals. The close bonds between siblings which can switch in an eye blink to jealousy, the existence of favouritism in families, the stultifying conventionalism of the past, horror, shame and secrecy . It made me shudder and engrossed me totally.

O'Farrell writes in a haunting, lilting style, bringing to life colours, textures and smells as well as emotions and events. Reading her is a very rich sensory experience despite the ostensible simplicity of her style. It's as if you're immersed in the places, times and people she's describing, seeing everything first hand. An excellent book. ****0 1/2
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