Book Reviews of The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
Author: Maggie O'Farrell
ISBN-13: 9780156033671
ISBN-10: 0156033674
Publication Date: 6/2/2008
Pages: 256
Rating:
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 92

3.6 stars, based on 92 ratings
Publisher: Harvest Books
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

54 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 329 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 23
What an interesting book this was! The main thing I found so fascinating was how easily it was in the past to have a woman locked away in a mental institution. Naturally, the lack of understanding of what are now commonly diagnosed mental disorders was also to blame for the main character, Esme's, predicament. The author does a wonderful job of letting you experience Esme's life and injustices, and by the time you get to the shocker of an ending, you have to wonder....if you were Esme, would you have done any differently?

The only thing that distracted me while reading this book was the author's writing style. There were times I had to re-read passages because I had missed the fact that the point of view had changed from one character to another, so make sure that you pay attention for that.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 523 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 15
Excellent story - one that stays with you long after you finish the last page. Definitely a page-turner; I couldn't put it down.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 67 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 13
This is a very interesting book. It has lots of twists and turns in it that are unexpected. I did like it, but I can't say that I loved it. I felt the ending was strange and it left me with a feeling that I was missing pages from my book. The author also has an unusual writing style of switching from one character to the next in mid sentence.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 36 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 10
This book was very good but disturbing at the same time. Much like watching an accident unfold, almost in slow motion, you know what's going to happen. You know it's not good but you're helpless to stop it.

The moments in the book when this clue or that clue fall into place and you go, "Oh! No no no no ...." Those moments I had to put the book down because I knew what was coming but to actually see the words written on the page ... To go deeper into a review would be giving away to much of the plot line.

I enjoyed the book very much but the ending left MUCH to be desired.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 23 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 9
I was a little confused with the writing style at first. Since multiple characters are all telling parts of the story at the same time BUT once I got the flow of the characters narratives I couldn't put the book down. It became a surprise with every turn of the page. I keep thinking about Esme over and over and the surprise ending is still being worked over in my mind. I keep thinking I should read it again and really see the underside of what was happening.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 19 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 9
Fast read, good story; but the ending was unfinished to me.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 92 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 8
The Vanishing Act Of Esme Lennox is true to form in the act of bertrayal,jealousy,and secrets that are all too common in real life,
The haunting tangled family drama.
This book left me wanting more drama & insight of Esme Lennox.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 68 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 7
The ending to this book was quite a surprise, but the shifts between point-of-view narratives were too abrupt and often for my taste. I think that it could have been a great book with more length and less shifting.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 266 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 6
What an absorbing page turner! Filled with family secrets, ultimate betrayal and the unraveling of a mystery.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on
Helpful Score: 5
This book is so well written from all the characters veiws at once,it is interesting,gripping and memorable. I loved it. The saddness of long ago families and the ripples they have on the present is an amazing feat as a writer and she pulled it off beautifully.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
I enjoyed this book and I recommend this book. It was very sad and thought provoking. I liked how the story unfolded by telling some of Esme's history and then jumping forward to what was happening in the present. The ending could have been put together better; but it also leaves the ending up to whatever the reader wishes it to be.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 113 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
Great story, quick read. It takes a bit to get into the changing POV - - different characters and jumping between past and present, but stick with it. The story that unfolds is quite worth it and will linger with you after the last page is turned.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 43 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
This book is one of those books that will keep you thinking about the characters even after you finish it. It's writing style is like a jigsaw puzzle where the voices and points of view of the characters (a 30 something shop owner, her grandmother, and Esme her grandmother's sister who has been locked in a psychiatric hospital for over 60 years) are intertwined throughout the book. As the book unfolds family secrets are revealed. Definitely not for those looking for a happy, light read but if you are looking for a book that is that full of family turmoil and redemption check this out.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 102 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
I really enjoyed this book! It's been a while since I've read such an engaging well written book. The only complaint I have is the ending - it left me feeling like it wasn't finished.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 113 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
I really enjoyed this book, a gothic tinged mystery.

Iris Lockhart is living out her life in Scotland, running her vintage clothing store, having an affair with a married man, and just living a fairly normal life. One day Iris receives a stunning phone call, regarding her Aunt Esme, a woman she never knew existed. It seems that Esme is being released from a local mental institution where she has been incarcerated for 60 years, and Iris is named as the person to receive notification. When Iris calls her mother she is assured there is a mistake, but Iris cannot ask her grandmother Kitty about Esme, because Kitty is in the late stages of Alzheimer's disease. So Iris brings her supposed aunt home, and tries to unravel the mystery of her incarceration.

Through Esme's memories and Kitty's ramblings we slowly piece together the tragic and haunting story of Esme, which leads to a final and stunning act.

I could not put this book down, I had to find out Esme's story, and I had to read the ending twice to make sure I understood what happened. Very compelling read.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on
Helpful Score: 2
I enjoyed this - it had more meat to it than I expected. A quick read, good for summer.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 11 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
I didn't find it hard to read this absorbing and relatively brief novel quickly -- it almost "ended too soon", because I really was enjoying the author's style. As some of the other reviews have noted, there's a point in the story where shifting points of view increase the complexity; these shifts could be a bit confusing,I guess... but just follow on through and matters will soon start to clear, finally pulling together the whole story of events that fractured the lives of the characters.

Esme's "vanishing" happens on several levels, and the story is tragedy building on tragedy (in fact, reaching well into the life of the young woman who, to her astonishment, discovers the existence of this unspoken-of relative). Esme's sensitive mentality is impacted by many people and events in her youngest years, leading up to shockingly complete betrayal of her by her family. Along this path, I couldn't help thinking ... "if only this or that had happened instead ... if only he/she had chosen a different path here ... if only there had been more love here". I mourned both for what Esme never had and for the chances that she lost.

The abruptness of the ending has been mentioned by a few other reviewers. The ending at first left me aghast and disappointed ... but it is hard, on reflection, to know "how it should have ended." I wonder if part of my reaction to the end was just more of the same "please let this be different" feeling that I had through much of the book.

Deeply sad story, but, if you're OK with that, I recommend it.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 32 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This was my first for this author. I have to admit that I put it down for a while and tried to get into it again. Not wanting to leave it I picked up one more time AND did not put it down until it was done. It was a great book, a stir of emotion. Not perditable at all. THE ending was very surprising.
I too have to agree that you must pay attention to the story and get use to the style of writting it can be confusing. I would recomed it after all.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 19 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
I could not finish this book and it's a rare thing that I give up, mid-book. The writing style of this author just didn't work for me. She switched back and forth between characters and time ... sometimes in mid-sentence. I found myself becoming frustrated with the book because it took a great deal of concentration to keep up with where you were, who was talking and what time period you were in. Too many other books out there to read than to struggle through one that I am not enjoying. Just my two cents.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 6 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Wow! What a sad sad story. It was beautifully written. I couldn't put it down. The characters are so well developed. This story will not be forgotten. A must read!!!
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Interesting book that takes a while to get started but worth the twists
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on
Helpful Score: 2
Fabulous book. The different perspectives all came together to tell a heartbreaking story, and a moving one. Piecing together the story of Esme Lennox through her memories, her experiences, the perspective of her granddaughter, her sister... An astounding book full of the voices of women.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on
Helpful Score: 2
Haunting story - keeps you entertained until the end.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 5 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
I love this book. It's a well written, very good story, although very sad.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 9 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
I chose this book for our book group, based on some of the reviews I'd read. It was every bit as good as most people thought, and every member of our group enjoyed it. It also provoked some good discussion - to think how easy it was to "put away" girls and women who didn't fit the mold, in years past, was horrifying. More horrifying still is that there are places where this can and does still happen.

A good read, great for discussion. It would be an interesting book to share with young adult women (there is some talk of sex, so not VERY young), as well.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 5 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This is an incredibly good read, as you are in suspense about what has happened to the main characters throughout the novel. In addition, you learn about what could happen to women in the 20's and 30's when they didn't have a male to protect them. Everyone in my book group liked this book and would recommend it.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 26 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Interesting, unusual style! Give readers a lot to think about!
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 64 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Very well written, strange, sad and haunting (but not creepy). I liked this book and just recommended it to someone. Very different plot.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on
Helpful Score: 1
For the most part, I really enjoyed this book. I easily followed the POV changes and thought the author handled that cleverly. My only issue was the ending. I didn't feel like it was enough of a payout for the reader who, by that point, is overly invested in the title character and the tribulations of her life. Regardless, very well-written and an interesting, intriguing read.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 43 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I give this book one half of a star because there is no option for zero stars. If it wasn't such a short book I wouldn't have finished it. It was one of the worst books I'd read in a very long time. The narrator jumps around in first person between different people from seventy years ago to present. There is no indication who is narrating at what time. The sentences are run on sentences that lack imagination. I would not recommend this book.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 44 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
After reading several other reviews of this book, I have come to the conclusion that an audio version is the best way to enjoy this story. The reader used different voices for the characters which made it much easier to follow.

While it took me a bit to get into the story, I found it mesmerizing. Though I thought I had missed some vital information at times, the author's flashbacks filled in the gaps nicely.

At times shocking, revelatory, sad, horrifying, anger-provoking, this is a book that you will muse on long after you have read the ending, which, in my opinion, was the perfect conclusion to a terrific book.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 27 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Great book! The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars was because of the disjointed, vague, mingling of character voices. Sometimes, I wasn't sure who was speaking. I would have liked seeing some parts of the story a little more developed, but all and all it was an excellent read! It was very intriguing all the way up to the surprise ending!
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 13 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Very interesting and compelling story. I couldn't put it down.
Perfect book club book, lots to talk about and get others' thoughts and impressions!
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 167 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
it took me a while to get into this because it's told from different peoples points of view- one being a schizophrenic twelve year old, one a 70 year old with alzheimers, and a 20 something year old.

basically the jest is that iris, the 20something gets a call saying that she needs to pick up her aunt from a psychiatric hospital which is closing down. iris has no knowledge of this aunt and doesnt believe she exists. the story is of her finding out who her aunt is and why shes been in a hospital for 60 years. the past is told from her aunt and her grandmothers point of view. i really got into it towards the end, where a bunch of family secrets come out.

it actually turned out to be a really great book.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on
Helpful Score: 1
This book was recommended to me, and I was not disappointed- I read it all in one sitting as I could not put it down.

Extremely well written, and unique writing style.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 19 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This book had a haunting plot that made the reader want to keep turning pages. However the characters were week. Iris is suppose to be one of the main characters, but she escapes my memory as part of the scenery. Her relationship with her married boyfriend and step-brother seem that it should relate to Esme's story, but aren't explain well enough and they end up being unnecessary attempts at subplots. Elder Kitty's character was an exception. I like how O'Farrell wrote Kitty's disconnected narrative to demonstrate her being Alzheimer's disease.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 74 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I really enjoyed this book. Very different. Very quick read.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 209 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I read this book in one day while recovering from an illness, it was fast reading and engaging. It was sometimes hard to follow as it went from past to present and spoke from the perspectives of different characters. However the story, though very sad, was not at all predictable.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
this story was told by a variety of its characters and went from the past to present time...an exceptional story worthy of a read.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on
I liked this book for the most part, but there were a couple of things that bothered me. First, the stream-of-consciousness writing when a character is thinking/experiencing something was confusing at times--who is thinking these things? Most of the time it's Esme, and so the disjointed and disconnected thinking seems appropriate. At other times it seems like it's Kitty, but I can't be sure. And a few times it was so disjointed that I had no idea what it was all about.
The second thing that bothered me was that Kitty, because of her dementia, takes no responsibility for what happens to Esme. And so the ending didn't seem right. I wanted to know more about what happened in Kitty's life. I wanted to care more about her.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 98 more book reviews
Iris Lockhart is going about life, minding her own business and trying not to think about the fact that she is in love with her step-brother when *bam*: she finds out she has a great-aunt that she's never heard of who's been locked up in an asylum for the last sixty years. Iris feels compelled to take Aunt Esme under her wing and the novel goes on to reveal the events that led to Esme's lockup while Iris tries to sort out her own life.

Wasn't too crazy about this one. The book vacillates between Iris's life and what happened to Esme that led her to lockup in the nuthouse. It took a while to figure out that the random stream-of-consciousness passages were coming from an addle-pated grandmother and that added to the bit of confusion over the rapidly changing points of view in the novel.

Nor was the (adopted, step, whatever) brother/sister-being-in-love-thing working for us. Yes, we understand they weren't blood related. It was still creepy in a V.C. Andrews kind of way.

O'Farrell did a nice job of conveying the terrible conditions that existed (and still do, to some extent) asylums during the early 20th-century, but she didn't play enough to this strength. It was one of those novels that could have been great, but fell flat, although we admit the ending was pretty sharp. Ultimately, it needed more One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest quality to really work.

Kinda meh on this one. Don't rush out today to buy it...perhaps a library checkout would be better because it does have a pretty snappy ending.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 426 more book reviews
This was the February 2013 pick in my neighborhood book club and I enjoyed it, save for the end.

This is a gothic mystery set in equal part in past and present day Scotland. Esme Lennox was a bit of an eccentric as a young girl and her life's course will surprise you.

This is a haunting story that kept me turning the pages until the very vague and abrupt, but not completely unexpected ending. I feel the end screams there should be a sequel.

B-
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 25 more book reviews
A book which weaves back and forth between the purported "author" in the first person, and an aunt called Esme, who is now an old woman in a mental institution, and her memories told in the first person also, It took me a bit to catch on to this, as the shifts wereabrupt and marked only by dashes (as I recall). A very interesting story, but one that comes to a startling end, which I will not disclose. Left me with an unsettled feeling, but thinking about the book for a long time.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 23 more book reviews
One of the best books I've read. I've decided Maggie O'Farrell is one of my new favorite authors.
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I really enjoyed this book. Although it took a while to get into the flow of the story as the author's style is quite different than anything I've read before. It is told by the central character's, two of which are mentally ill. I re-read the last few pages a couple of times as I wanted to be sure I understood what happened at the end. To me, it was finished but it wasn't really. So much yet untold. What happened between Esme and Iris going forward? Still, I enjoyed it.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on
I did enjoy this story but I didn't fall in love with it. It felt like this was the author's first attempt at a novel. When I turned the final page and the story came to an end I was disappointed. There were still so many unanswered questions, unfinished storylines and unexplored avenues. All in all a quick page turner with some twists and turns to keep it interesting but not one that earns a permanant spot on my bookshelf.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 2 more book reviews
I could not put this book down. I could feel Esme's spirtit. Tragic but a real look at the role of women in society. We have come a long way but, baby, we still have a long way to go.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 16 more book reviews
Haunting is the right word for this book! I couldn't put it down, there were no chapters in it so I didn't know when to stop:) Actually I just couldn't put it down. The end left me speechless. I don't want to tell you anything about the story. I want it to unfold for you as you turn the pages. I read a review that gave me way too many spoilers and I wish I had started it with a clean slate.
Read it, let me know what you thought.
reviewed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox on + 9 more book reviews
Really enjoyed the book. The characters were well written, but the end was slightly confusing and I had to read it twice to make sure I had read it correctly.
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Great story and I loved the characters and how the story unfolds, what was confusing was the style of writing, she skipped around a lot and it was very hard to know who was speaking.
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This book was wonderful and beautiful. I did not expect to enjoy it nearly as much as I did!
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intriguing!
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Excellent and well-written book. Recommended read.
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Weirdest thing for me with this book. Really enjoyed reading it so much, but the last 4 pages RUINED it for me lol... In all seriousness, written in a manner that really pulled me in jumping from one character's voice to another, and often we are reading the thoughts of an actual character. But then the author pulled out this weird and sloppy ending that left me feeling so cheated. Quick read, try it, see what you think.