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Publisher's Summary

Iris Lockhart is busy tending to the everyday business of her vintage clothing shop and her complicated love affairs when she receives a stunning phone call. Her great-aunt Esme, whom she never even knew existed, is being released from a psychiatric hospital where she has been locked away for over 60 years.

Esme has been labeled harmless, sane enough to coexist with the rest of the world. But why has her family never mentioned her, and what is the secret or her virtually wiped-out past? If Iris takes her in, what dangerous truths might she inherit?

Weaving Esme's tragic story together with Iris's modern dilemmas, O'Farrell's intricate cross-generational tale of family secrets, lost lives, and the complex longings of women will haunt readers long past its final page.

©2006 Maggie O'Farrell; (P)2007 Blackstone Audio Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • Nominee, 2008 Audie Award, Fiction

"[A]n intricate, eloquent novel of family malice, longings, and betrayal....O'Farrell maintains a high level of tension throughout, and the conclusion is devastating." (Publishers Weekly)
"O'Farrell's fourth novel brilliantly illustrates her talent for gradually revealing her characters' inner lives....A gripping read with superbly crafted scenes that will blaze in the reader's memory long after the novel is returned to the shelf." (Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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  • Overall

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

An amazing book. The many threads come together brilliantly at the end. I found the narration helpful in distinguishing the character's voices; unlike the previous reviewer, I felt that each voice was distinct. Of course, since the printed version supplies no such clues, it puts us a little ahead of the game. The language is both precise and beautiful, the characters fascinating, and the end result stunning.

18 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

a poor recording ruined the experience

This is a complex mystery told from the changing point of view of 3 different characters throughout the course of the book. Sadly the recording makes no pause, no change of voice, and no identification of the character delivering any given portion of the story. The listener can figure it out by paying very careful attention but this would have been an excellent book had it been produced in a way to make the differentiation between the characters clearer.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Julie
  • Le Center, MN, USA
  • 04-23-09

Haunting

This story stuck with me - a cautionary tale of what can happen to the "odd" child in a family full of secrets and betrayals.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • sheila
  • Mulgrave, Australia
  • 04-10-12

What can I say

It took some getting into. But then I couldn't stop, and when finished I had to read again.
Recommended to me, and I have given as a gift and recommeneded to friends.
Can be as deep as you want, you think you have it, then it all changes.
To me a good book is if you think about it afterwards. I can't stop thinking about Esme.
I do have a different slant on the outcome than my friends but its how you look at it.
Wonderful will be searching for more Maggie O'Farrell.
Persevere if confused at the start. It all fits into place.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Disappointing ending

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I enjoyed the storyline and the narration was quite good, but found the end very disappointing.

What was most disappointing about Maggie O'Farrell’s story?

The end was quite abrupt

What aspect of Anne Flosnik’s performance would you have changed?

Nothing

Could you see The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

No

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

engaging story

Unlike other reviewers, I had no problem at all telling which characters were telling the story at which points. Although there is no voice differentiation, the context immediately gives you clues as to whom is speaking. The story was engaging and kept me interested until the end.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

The reader was excellent, but the story is framed as being revolutionary, but is came off more as a soap oprera.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Diane
  • Louisville, KY, United States
  • 06-17-17

Buried alive

How does a family deal with "unpleasant" realities within the family unit? For Esme, she was the vessel in which the truth of those realities resided and over time that vessel began to show some cracks. Then, of course, those cracks became another "unpleasant" reality to be put aside, to be concealed, to be buried. Set in the early years of the 20th century, the approach of her family was to take something of a stiff upper lip attitude and deny the existence of those realities. The burden of that fell on Esme to the extent that eventually she became an unpleasant reality herself and had to be "put away" to maintain the veneer of normal family life, with ultimately devastating effects.
A little slow paced for my taste, but a haunting and thought-provoking story.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Captivating read, with a warning

If you are upset by violence, maybe give this one a miss.

Story was enthralling though, and surprising.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

A mystery to the end

Would you consider the audio edition of The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox to be better than the print version?

This book requires you to pay close attention. Very clever writing! The ending is unexpected! Loved it!