The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

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I had never read a Maggie O’Farrell book before. I had heard fantastic reviews of her earlier books, The Distance Between Us and After You’d Gone, but I tend to avoid a book that makes me cry! The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox intrigued me when I picked it up from a local cafe’s book swap section. I took it home and immediately started to read.

In the middle of tending to the everyday business at her vintage-clothing shop and sidestepping her married boyfriend’s attempts at commitment, Iris Lockhart receives a stunning phone call: Her great-aunt Esme, whom she never knew existed, is being released from Cauldstone Hospital—where she has been locked away for more than sixty-one years.

This is such a beautifully written and haunting novel, full of family secrets and unexpected developments. Maggie O’Farrell writes exquisitely, drawing you into the narratives of both modern day Iris and 1930s Esme. Her characters are so wonderfully written, it’s hard not to fall in love with Esme. And to be devastated at the life she had stolen from her.

Another of my favourites. It left me reeling long after I’d finished it, one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read and I now wait with great anticipation of her next novel.

The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard

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If you haven’t read any of the Cazalet Chronicles then I suggest you remedy that right now. Here’s a link to Waterstones where you can buy all five books. What are you waiting for? Go!

I was given a set of Elizabeths Jane Howard’s five wonderful books by my mum for my 40th birthday. I had never heard of them before. But when I opened up the first in the series, The Light years, I was introduced to a world of enchanted childhoods and old fashioned, endless summers and I was hooked immediately. My only problem was trying not to read all of them at once.

The Light Years begins in 1937 at the family estate, Home Place, in the heart of the Sussex countryside. Three generations of the Cazalet family are home for a summer of lavish meals, picnics on the beach and long, lazy sunny days. But things aren’t always so idealistic, there is a grittiness to this book which undercuts the occasional cosiness

Along with their extended family, their children and their servants, a fascinating drama of love affairs, sibling relationships and rivalries begins, against the backdrop of impending war and devastating loss, and stretches across five novels.

The books are told cleverly through the narrative point of view of over a dozen characters, so that the stories are brought to us in relatively short bursts. However if you think all those characters sharing the storyline would be complicated or confusing you’d be wrong, Howard’s characterisation and clear story telling means that we know exactly who is who and what part of the story is developing. She’s an incredibly clever and confident story teller.

If you are fascinated by social history and the intricacies of familial relationships, there is nothing you won’t love about these books. And the great thing is if you devour The Light Years in a few days, like I did, you have another four books to read.