Iris is a modern woman, running her own business and dealing with her complicated love-life when she receives a call from a doctor informing her that her great Aunt is being released from a mental hospital. The doctor wants to know if Iris will be her aunt's new carer. The only problem is that Iris has never known about Esme and her family has always acted like Esme never existed. Why didn't Iris's grandmother ever say anything? And what could a girl do to end up spending her entire life in a mental institution?
The story is told from multiple perspectives and through flashbacks, allowing the reader to see Esme not as an elderly woman but an unusual, free-spirited girl living in a world where young women are meant to be a certain way and individuality will not be tolerated. It's a wonderful story, though obviously more than a little depressing. The flashbacks make you hope for a happy ending but you know that Esme ends up spending most of her life locked away, so any happy ending is going to be muted. I really enjoyed this book and while the format was a little unusual, I found it made the book more digestable. Instead of traditional chapters, the book is broken up into short sections, almost mini chapters, that means you can read a bit at a time and put the book down without worrying about losing the thread.
I wish there was more to the ending of the novel, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless. I definitely want to read the author's other works now.
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - Maggie O'Farrell
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