The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell


Audiobook.   Esme is a 60-year resident of an asylum in Edinburgh who is turned out when the asylum closes; the administrators contact the only remaining family member, a 30ish woman named Iris, who did not know of Esme’s existence.  The initial horror we learn is that Esme is the sane one; at 16 she was “spirited” and unfortunately that was sometimes enough to land young women in an asylum. 

The story shifts between Iris’ life and Esme’s young life 65-70 years before, but the story belongs to poor Esme, who is betrayed at every turn, first by her parents, and then devastatingly by her beloved sister Kitty.  The story is told alternately by Esme and through the reveries of the now-demented Kitty. 

The interaction between Esme and Iris as Esme sees the Edinburgh she missed for 60 years is touching and appealing.   It is the artfulness of the storytelling that makes this book so compelling.

I look forward to other books by Maggie O’Farrell.

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