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Publisher's Summary

Edinburgh in the 1930s. The Lennox family is having trouble with its youngest daughter. Esme is outspoken, unconventional, and repeatedly embarrasses them in polite society. Even Kitty, Esme's beloved sister, is beginning to lose patience. Something will have to be done.

Years later, in the same city, a young woman named Iris Lockhart receives a letter informing her that she has a great aunt in a psychiatric unit who is about to be released. Iris has never heard of Esme Lennox, and the one person who should know more, her grandmother Kitty, is too adrift in her own memories to answer Iris' questions. What could Esme have done to warrant a lifetime in an institution? And how is it possible for a person to be so completely erased from a family's history?

(P)2006 Maggie O'Farrell

Critic Reviews

"O'Farrell's imaginative territory is one you return to with delight." (The Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Ann
  • Hartley Vale, NSW, Australia
  • 10-19-09

I didn't like it

When this book ended I thought there was some kind of mistake, so I listened to the last part again....how unsatisfactory. It's like the author just ran out of ideas and quit! I was waiting for it to get started.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Anna
  • 07-15-13

One of the best readings I have heard

What made the experience of listening to The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox the most enjoyable?

Daniella Nardini's characterisation and interpretation

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox?

The most memorable moments were when Esme was removed to the hospital. The extraordinary unfairness of the law and the brutal conditions in mental hospitals at the time were graphically and movingly described

What does Daniella Nardini bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

The voices of the different characters, especially Kitty, which I think I would have found it hard to track through reading only

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes

Any additional comments?

I have been listening to talking books for over 15 years and this is one of the best readings I have heard. I was moved to tears.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Karen
  • 05-21-07

Gripping

This certainly was the equivalent of a 'page turner' I could not stop listening. I love Maggie O'Farrel's writing, and was gripped by this latest novel. That said, I did feel that the ending of this novel was a little light weight.....I felt it ended just when it had really begun....Not, in my view, her best work, but still extremely well written and engaging.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Joan
  • 04-01-07

Glad to be modern

This is a woman's book. I don't mean this in a derogatory way, but any woman would be gripped by the appalling and sad story of Esme. This book is a little slow to start, but once the characters are established, it is fascinating to compare the lives of women born 50 years apart, and Daniela Nardini is excellent at delivering the changing voices of the different generations. The story unfolds slowly through snippets of conversation until everything falls into place. Clever and thought-provoking.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kaggy
  • 06-03-16

Heartbreaking story of a life denied

What is the worst thing you can do to another human being? Esme experiences a number of horrors made worse still by the fact they have been inflicted by her family and the people who are supposed to love her. In this short book, Maggie O'Farrell manages to weave an intimate and intriguing story of three family generations and the secrets that lurk in their background. The characters are vividly written and their stories are gripping and believable. This is an emotional book, but the pathos is not overdone and the ending is stark and believable. Daniella Nardini reads this beautifully and the production makes use of clever techniques to convey real and imagined voices. I don't believe anybody can ever achieve true closure but the conclusion was as close as it can probably ever get.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • bookwormbadger
  • 07-11-13

Brilliant and unforgettable

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

Beautifully read and performed - really added to the story in a way that the print version would not have.

What did you like best about this story?

The plot was very clever and intricate, with lots of unexpected twists and turns!

What about Daniella Nardini’s performance did you like?

Her voice could be both calm and gentle for one character, as well as angry, accusatory, distraught... She was amazing.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I found it hard to stop listening - didn't want to tear myself away but the presence of young children tend to prevent me from listening in one sitting!

Any additional comments?

One of the best audiobooks we have bought in a long time. Will definitely be buying more from Maggie O'Farrell.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mrs Wendy Huggins
  • 07-18-12

Excellent, so much so, I read it twice!

Totally absorbing and brilliantly read by Daniella. So good I suggested it for the book club and everyone else loved it too.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • CharmayneFB
  • 10-25-13

I cannot rate it highly enough!

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

I have not read the print version, but I can say that Daniella Nardini really does an amazing job reading the audio book. The voices she uses transport you back in time and then to the present day. Her portrayal of someone in the midst of dementia is so believable too.

What did you like best about this story?

The gentle suspense throughout. You just know something is coming, but it is in a gentle way, not obvious like a detective story. Not a romance, but has romantic elements affecting the plotlines too.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

There is part of the book where the two main characters independently come to realise what relationship they are to each other. It is very poignant.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I definitely could have listened to this all the way through in one go had my family allowed me to. I have to admit that the first few minutes didn't grab me, but after that, I was gripped.

Any additional comments?

The sense of injustice I felt for the characters was so great that it felt as though they were real people. I think this book will live with me for a while!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Elizabeth
  • 11-29-10

its good

I was absorbed in the story quite quickly, the change in characters and time and place are very well done, and you can so easily visualise the situations. Its one I will be listening to again sometime.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Elisabeth
  • 01-13-09

Esme lennox

A great audio story as much of the book is dialogue in different voices. Sensitive and an easy listen - exposure to the ease with which women in particular could be locked away in institutions in the early part of this century. Good contrasts with life as was, particularly for middle class gals and modern day life for women. thoroughly enjoyed it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mrs. K. J. D. CURRIE
  • 09-07-15

Fabulous story - so emotional

What did you like most about The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox?

I loved the narration - the distinction between times and characters was very well done!

What did you like best about this story?

The complexity of Esme's character was beautifully and sensitively portrayed

What about Daniella Nardini’s performance did you like?

Great diction and the distinction between characters was very well done

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

It was as though she was never there

Any additional comments?

One of my favourite books!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Bianca Coleman
  • 04-28-16

Touching, gut-wrenching read

I loved everything about this audiobook. The story is remarkable - full of tragedy, love, guilt and jealousy. The performance by Nardini was fantastic, transitioning seamlessly between characters. I didn't expect the ending at all.

Well worth a listen, I think.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • M.
  • 02-05-18

Incredible family secrets and twists

Great storyline enhanced by perfect Edinburgh accented narration .. was over all too quickly . Bizarre family secrets of pervious generation, who were unable to deal with an alternative intelligent female who did not conform.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful