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Kell

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O' Farrell

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Since May begins the day after tomorrow, I thought I'd open the discussion thread for the Reading Circle book for the month - The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O' Farrell (who is also our featured author for the month, so be sure to nip along to her thread and ask a few questions, whether they're about this book, or about her, or about writing in general).

 

Synopsis:

Set between the 1930s,and the present, Maggie O'Farrell's new novel is the story of Esme, a woman edited out of her family's history, and of the secrets that come to light when, sixty years later, she is released from care, and a young woman, Iris, discovers the great aunt she never knew she had. The mystery that unfolds is the heartbreaking tale of two sisters in colonial India and 1930s Edinburgh - of the loneliness that binds them together and the rivalries that drive them apart, and lead one of them to a shocking betrayal - but above all it is the story of Esme, a fiercely intelligent, unconventional young woman, and of the terrible price she is made to pay for her family's unhappiness.

 

Added by Michelle: Please see also the Featured Author thread, where the book is also discussed. :D

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I only read this one a couple of weeks ago so I won't be re-reading it this time. I will join in with the discussions though. Hope you all enjoy this one, I did. I'd never read any other books by Maggie O'Farrell before but I'm actively seeking them out now.

 

A great story for you all....

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I started reading this yesterday morning and have already covered 80 pages. I am enjoying it immensely so far.

 

It reminded me of a long ago visit to Friern Barnet, an enormous N London institution now closed which housed women like Esme.

:D

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I am reading it too, and may pass it on to my mother in law, who worked in one of these places. I haven't got too far with it yet, but I will endeavour to read quicer when the settee isn't dressed in our clothes! So far though, I agree with Lily. It looks like an amazing stroy, and was actually thinking of actively seeking out more by Maggie.

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I can't recommend her books enough.. she's one of my all time favourite's. :D My Lover's Lover is very different to her others though.. some liked it, some didn't.

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i only started this late on friday night. i'm over halfway through it already thanks to a train journey yesterday.

 

am loving the book, and also looking out for more by this author. so the giveaways do work in some instances.

 

took me a few pages to get into whose story it was at the time as it alternates between three women and also different times for all of them, one with altzheimer's whose thoughts are fractured. but once you have an idea of what is going on, you get so drawn into it

 

i like the 'less is more' way she writes

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This was one of my favourite novels of last year and Maggie is definitely my favourite contemporary writer (so you can imagine that I'm getting all excited and fan-girl squealy at the prospect of her arrival on the forum!) :D I think Esme is her best work since the astonishing After You'd Gone.

 

You're all in for a treat!!

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i finished this yesterday. took me all of three days despite me dragging it out as i was enjoying it so much.

 

have written a little in my book list here but have kept it spare as i didn't wish to post any spoilers

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I know what you mean ~v~, this is a hard book to discuss without reading the whole thing, and without giving any spoilers.

 

I think that as people finish, discussion can begin, using the spoiler button.. and those still reading, make sure you wait until you finish before you read them. :D

 

I'll be back later with some thoughts...

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Ok, so there are a couple of big reveals. Please don't read until you've finished... :D

 

 

1. Esme being her mum, instead of her aunt. Did that one surprise you? I only saw it coming as soon as I realised she was pregnant (or just before, can't remember off hand). Did anyone see it sooner, or maybe hazard a guess?

 

edit.. of course I meant grandmother, not mum! :D

 

2. The ending.. did it surprise you? It did me, as most books go for a 'nice' ending. I "liked" it though, because I like unusual/unexpected endings.

 

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Ok, so there are a couple of big reveals. Please don't read until you've finished... :D

 

 

1. Esme being her mum, instead of her aunt. Did that one surprise you? I only saw it coming as soon as I realised she was pregnant (or just before, can't remember off hand). Did anyone see it sooner, or maybe hazard a guess?

 

2. The ending.. did it surprise you? It did me, as most books go for a 'nice' ending. I "liked" it though, because I like unusual/unexpected endings.

 

Hey Michelle :D I've had at respond in spoilers:

 

1)

I thought Esme was her grandmother? I thought it was her dad who was actually Esme's son (unknown to him)?

 

 

2)

I find the ending very uplifting - I like that for once in her life, someone won't let Esme go without a struggle and is ready to stand by her. I became quite emotional after reading that!

 

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Ok, so there are a couple of big reveals. Please don't read until you've finished... :D

 

 

1. Esme being her mum, instead of her aunt. Did that one surprise you? I only saw it coming as soon as I realised she was pregnant (or just before, can't remember off hand). Did anyone see it sooner, or maybe hazard a guess?

 

edit.. of course I meant grandmother, not mum! :D

 

2. The ending.. did it surprise you? It did me, as most books go for a 'nice' ending. I "liked" it though, because I like unusual/unexpected endings.

 

 

Finished this evening -

I guessed about the baby being Esme's but I certainly didn't see the ending coming. I had to read it twice before I got it! I was secretly pleased she did that after being incarcerated for sixty years when her sister could have helped her.

 

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Michelle, I couldn't help but view that spoiler, but I can say that I did guess, because i haven't read that far yet. I'm only about 120 pages in.

I knew as soon as Kitty said something about a baby, her baby

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Michelle, I couldn't help but view that spoiler, but I can say that I did guess, because i haven't read that far yet. I'm only about 120 pages in.

I knew as soon as Kitty said something about a baby, her baby

 

me too

 

i spotted it quite quickly but it was nice to see it unfold.

 

i usually miss stuff when i take longer to read a book, so wasn't sure if i was sharp due to the fact i was reading it more or because i'd got into the mindset

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Please do not read this if you are still reading..

 

 

I had a wee inkling that Esme might be Iris's grandmother, after what happened at the New Year's ball with Esme and James (was that his name, sorry if I am wrong).

 

I did like the ending, I felt that finally Esme was doing something on her own terms, all be it, a bit shocking, but you could see why she did it.

 

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Yep, my mistake PDR.. was in a rush! LOL

 

That's okay - I just wanted to make sure I hadn't missed something! :D It was last September when I read it, you see, so I thought I may have accidentally re-arranged the plot in my head :D

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I don't think I've read a book without chapters before. I might have done. I try to find a suitable break to pause at, but often I a intrigued and read beyond a natural break, then I realise i am too tired (or busy) to go to the next one..

 

It is good to read about different times in the book. I like to read about the time of Esme and Kitty's childhood.

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Just finished and loved this book first M O'Farrell but will be looking for more.

Thought I would struggle with the style and movement in time but never did and adored the way that the story gradually revealed itself in three different voices,

 

thought Esme's bits when she jumped in time were very clever as was never in doubt as to what was happening when!

Did not really guess the baby bit as thought for a bit that the baby she would not let go of was Hugo!

 

Thank you for the book and thank you for introducing me to another author.

Ending

 

left me with lots of questions - did she do it because she wanted to be back where she had been? Or because she was angry? How lovely that she was not alone.

Hated Alex though could have done without his arrogance!

 

 

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Did not really guess the baby bit as thought for a bit that the baby she would not let go of was Hugo!

 

 

 

 

I thought the baby she would not let go of was Hugo too. The bit that made me realise was when Kitty was saying she took something of hers (the first time she said it). Of course with having alzheimer's and disjointed thoughts that comment could easily have been mistaken for her having taken anything. It needn't have been important. This leads me on to my next comment..

 

 

 

took me a few pages to get into whose story it was at the time as it alternates between three women and also different times for all of them, one with altzheimer's whose thoughts are fractured. but once you have an idea of what is going on, you get so drawn into it

 

I think Kitty's thoughts have to be fractured because otherwise she would probably have had to come later on in the book (as a central character this would not be a good thing, or be easy to write) or we would have had to read about the life she led in the nursing home (not important and probably boring) otherwise she would have given the game away too early.

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I finshed this a couple of days ago but haven't had chance to come on. I can't remember which day it was now, but when I finished it, I think on Tuesday, it was a very strange day.

 

 

 

When I got to the part where Esme had the baby I had to sit down for about half an hour. I managed to make a coffee, but that's about all, then when Neighbours came on and I had lunch I still didn't feel right. Did it affect anyone else like this or am I just being over sensitive having recently had my own baby? I know people in these places too, so maybe it is a mix of those two things added to the story..

 

 

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The sad thing about this book, is that it still happens. There are people even today put into these places by their families for no reason, or for small things.

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The sad thing about this book, is that it still happens. There are people even today put into these places by their families for no reason, or for small things.

 

I know Icecream and it is just appalling isn't it?, I hate to think of all those forgotten people. That is what I really liked about the book, you really got a sense of what it was like in a place like that.

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It is worse than the book makes out to, if you can imagine that (I know people who have been in/worked in them). The book paints a very near picture though. It makes you wonder what family means to someone who can put their own child or spouse in a place like that. There are other ways of dealing with people if need be.

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