Reading The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox gives a taste of what it must be like to have Alzheimer. Memories come disjointed and often have holes just at that crucial moment, but the visuals created come with a clarity that we reserve for that which happened just yesterday. Maggie O’Farrell tells the story of Esme Lennox and her sister, of Iris and her ‘adopted’ brother, of the horrors of living in a society where the rules are stacked against you and the punishments are sever. And she does it with beauty and style. The frustration the reader feels as each section of the story breaks of forces the reader to think and read between the lines, and then ultimately answers the readers’ questions piece by piece?
At the heart of the story is a woman who has been locked away in an insane asylum for 60 years; a woman that is a little different, but so familiar that most women today can relate to her. What happened to Esme? What did she do to get locked away? What would have become of Esme if she’d been born in a different age? How will her grandniece Iris deal with this newly found relative and just what is going on with Iris’ ‘brother’ Alex?
O’Farrell answers all these questions, but not before making her reader think. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is a softer version of Daphne Marlett’s Ana Historic, a book that an old professor of mine once told me changes lives.