Modern Lit: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, by Maggie O’Farrell

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

An Inconvenient Woman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Iris Lockhart (an oddly portentous last name) is at work in Edinburgh when she receives a shocking phone call, informing her that she is legal guardian for a great aunt, Esme, whom she never knew existed. Iris’s grandmother, Kitty, in now in a nursing home, in no condition to explain why she never revealed that she has a sister. When Esme inquires, she discovers that Esme has been a mental patient for an astounding 61 years. Esme needs a home, because the hospital is now closing.

What follows is the moving and captivating story of Esme – how and why she was committed – and her birth family. It does not unfold linearly, rather in stream of consciousness fragments and flashbacks recalled by those who were involved. As the facts come to light, they grow more and more incredible, leading the reader to question who is the person who is actually “unbalanced”. This book lingers in the mind long after the covers are closed.

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