The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

vanishingThe Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
by Maggie O’Farrell
2007 / 277 pages
rating – 7.5 / contemp fiction

I’m not fond of books without chapter divisions – what is it the reader is supposed to do, read it in one sitting? Are we supposed to think the author just sat down and wrote this out in one sitting? I understand the work is meant to be seen as “seamless,” or of a piece – well, okay, but I don’t eat dinner that way and it’s certainly “of a piece.”

Whatever – I enjoyed but wasn’t really impressed with the story of Iris Lockhart, a present-day Scottish woman, who finds she has a great aunt being released from a mental hospital. It seems that Esme Lennox has been stashed away for deuces there and it’s now closing. The main plot thread follows the clues about how Esme landed there, what her grandmother’s place in the story was.

Another plot thread follows Iris’ tangled love life – it’s pretty boring.

The structure really is interesting – because the reader has to untangle whose point of view they’re reading – it might be Esme’s or it might be the grandmother – it might be someone else, too.

The theme is the horrible way women who did not live up to the ideals of Victorian life were treated no matter what the situation was.

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