The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell

Readers who like short novels may be drawn to Maggie O’Farrell’s The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. This relatively short and very readable novel is set in Scotland.  The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox delivers plenty of suspense as the story unfolds. Essentially it is a family story — part mystery, part drama  — centered on the related lives of three women: Iris, who owns a vintage clothing shop and is involved in a relationship with a married man; Kitty, her grandmother, who is suffering from Alzheimers and living in a care home; and Esme, the great aunt that Iris had never heard of until she gets a call from an asylum where Esme has been an inmate for more than 60 years.

Family secrets spill in a thoughtful and sensitive cleverly woven story which also explores some deeper themes such as how identity is transferred across generations. “We are all, Esme decides, just vessels through which identities pass: we are lent features, gestures, habits, then we hand them on. Nothing is our own.”

Maggie O’Farrell has a gift for creating believable, human characters and drawing the reader into their stories. In my opinion, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is one of her best novels to date.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell was first published in 2006. eBook published by Headline Publishing, 2009. eISBN 9780755372263.

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell

Maggie O’Farrell won the 2010 Costa Book Award for her book, The Hand That First Held Mine. Born in Northern Ireland, O’Farrell has written several numbers, among them The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox which is reviewed elsewhere on this website.

The Hand that First Held Mine tells the story of two couples. In the first story, set in the past, Lexie Sinclair runs away from home to London in the 1950s where she sets up home with magazine editor/publisher Innes Kent. Their’s is a beautiful and happy love story, for a time.

In the second story which is set in the present, Elina has just given birth and is learning to cope with her new baby. Her partner, Ted, finds the new baby stirs up memories of his own childhood that are disturbing because they don’t entirely fit with his present circumstances.

The two stories are interlinked and although the reader guesses that from the outset, it takes quite a while to learn exactly where the links are.

The Hand that First Held Mine  is very well written and will have you turning the pages. If you haven’t read Maggie O’Farrell before, do give her a try. I don’t think that you will be disappointed.