Thursday, June 30, 2016

38. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - Maggie O'Farrell

Audio CD read by Anne Flosnik
2006 Houghton Mifflin
2007 Blackstone Audio
245 pgs.
Contemporary realistic fiction with forays into the 2nd quarter of the 20th century
Finished June 30, 2016 on my second trip this summer north to Maine
Goodreads rating: 3.80 (17,700 ratings)
My rating: 5
Setting: Contemporary Scotland

First line/s:  "Let us begin with two girls at a dance.  They are at the edge of the room.  One sits on a chair, opening and shutting a dance card with gloved fingers.  The other stands beside her, watching the dance unfold:  the circling couples, the clasped hands, the drumming shoes, the whirling skirts, the bounce of the floor.  It is the last hour of the year and the windows behind them are blank with night.  The seated girls is dressed in something pale, Esme forgets what, the other in a dark red frock that doesn't suit her.  She has lost her gloves.  It begins here."

My comments:  This was a really good story. Well written, well read.  Iris, a 30-something with a complicated love life, discovers she has an unknown great-aunt - Esme - that's been hidden away in an asylum for 61 years - since she was 16.  And there was absolutely no reason for it.  The story unfolds in many ways - in the memories of both Esme and her now-senile sister Kitty and in the current day happenings of Iris and Esme. The reader had a wonderful British/Scottish lilt and the story was quite mesmerizing. (It did leave me with a real sense of anger about mental-health issues and the little regard society had for women just a short time ago in our history.)

Goodreads synopsis:  In the middle of tending to the everyday business at her vintage-clothing shop and sidestepping her married boyfriend’s attempts at commitment, Iris Lockhart receives a stunning phone call: Her great-aunt Esme, whom she never knew existed, is being released from Cauldstone Hospital—where she has been locked away for more than sixty-one years.
          Iris’s grandmother Kitty always claimed to be an only child. But Esme’s papers prove she is Kitty’s sister, and Iris can see the shadow of her dead father in Esme’s face. 
          Esme has been labeled harmless—sane enough to coexist with the rest of the world. But she's still basically a stranger, a family member never mentioned by the family, and one who is sure to bring life-altering secrets with her when she leaves the ward. If Iris takes her in, what dangerous truths might she inherit?
          A gothic, intricate tale of family secrets, lost lives, and the freedom brought by truth, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox will haunt you long past its final page.

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