The Blurb (from Goodreads):
In the middle of tending to the everyday business at her vintage clothing shop and sidestepping her married boyfriend’s attempts at commitment, Iris Lockhart receives a stunning phone call: Her great-aunt Esme, whom she never knew existed, is being released from Cauldstone Hospital - where she has been locked away for over sixty years. Iris’s grandmother Kitty always claimed to be an only child. But Esme’s papers prove she is Kitty’s sister, and Iris can see the shadow of her dead father in Esme’s face. Esme has been labeled harmless - sane enough to coexist with the rest of the world. But Esme’s still basically a stranger, a family member never mentioned by the family, and one who is sure to bring life-altering secrets with her when she leaves the ward. If Iris takes her in, what dangerous truths might she inherit?
Maggie O’Farrell’s intricate tale of family secrets, lost lives, and the freedom brought by truth will haunt readers long past its final page.
Maggie O’Farrell was a new discovery for me this year, and I am now consuming all of her ouevre with voracity. I keep thinking: why haven’t I read her before? What took me so long to discover her?
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox tells the story of two woman who lives collide when Iris discovers she has a great-aunt she never knew locked up in a mental asylum for more than 60 years. The narrative slips back and forth between Iris and Esme and her sister Kitty, who has dementia, and is centred on the conundrums at the heart of the story – why was Esme committed? And what will happen now she is to be released?
With delicacy and deftness, Maggie O’Farrell weaves the lives of these three women into a truly haunting novel that I cannot stop thinking about. So good it is humbling.
You might also like to read my review of I am, I am, I am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O'Farrell: