Publisher's Note:  

"Let us begin with two girls at a dance," writes Maggie O'Farrell, and the reader is immediately pulled into a journey across continents, generations, and the hidden landscapes of the heart. The story she tells encompasses the confused present of a contemporary young woman, Iris Lockhart; the unsuspected past of Iris's grandmother, Kitty, adrift in the forgetfulness of Alzheimer's; and the long-concealed life of Kitty's sister Esme, who has spent a lifetime institutionalized for refusing to accept the conventions of 1930s Edinburgh society.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

by Maggie O'Farrell

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Overall Review:  

What would you do if you were placed in a mental institution and didn’t know why?  Your family sent you away, and never came to visit; never mentioned your name ever again?  You were erased.  None of your descendents (or theirs) even knew you existed until one day when the ‘hospital’ you were in for the past 60+ years was shutting down and they needed get rid of you.  That is the essence of this book.  It is told in 3 points of view: One is in the present from a granddaughter; one from the ‘mental’ patient herself as she looks back and tries to see why she was sent away; one from the point of view of the sister of the mental patient (the grandmother) who has Alzheimer’s.   The writing itself is genius.  She is talented!  I couldn’t get over the point of view of the Alzheimer’s grandmother and wondered if that very well may be what it’s like; starting and ending in half sentences, jumping from time period to time period in half-baked thoughts.  All three women were separate individuals and had quite the stories to tell!!  The ending was shocking; almost as much as the content.  I felt overwhelmingly distressed and disturbed at the end.  If that was the author’s intent, then she did a stellar job!  An interesting read, if not one that I could rave about and look forward to reading again.

Content Analysis:  

There is fairly constant profanity throughout, and some very strong words are thrown in (about 5 or 6). 

A character kills another character.  It’s not described, but it is disturbing.  A character is raped.  This is not graphically described, but again, it’s disturbing. 

A character has multiple affairs and sexual encounters. 

Mature Subject Matter:  

You can’t have a book about mental patients and family ‘secrets’ without there being many strong mature themes involved such as dealing with rape, infidelity, family problems, marital problems, abandonment, death, and coping with severe situations.  This book is not appropriate for anyone under age 21.

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Reviewed By Emily
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