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Not quite the story I expected

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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 30, 2007, 11:27:02 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 20, 2010, 4:30:21 PM PST
Dwight Okita says:

I was drawn to this book because the language of the opening pages was terrific. And the title of the novel is a poignant allusion to Esme's 61 year time in an asylum. Even the way Esme taught her younger self to "disappear" was intriguing. But ultimately I was a bit disappointed by this book. I thought the inherent drama of this story would be in the present: how will Iris come to unravel the puzzle of Esme's imprisonment, what attempts will Esme reveal that she made to free herself of her predicament (oddly, I don't recall any attempts -- her fierce spirit of her youth broken so completely?). Instead much of Esme's story relates to her pre-asylum days and what led up to being committed. So we are cheated out of learning what actually happened in her days in the asylum, lessons learned about herself and the world. And in the present -- I expected to see a final scene of Esme's rage. It doesn't come. So for me the story was anticlimactic. Though I did read it with great interest because I kept hoping to get to that present day catharsis. What is the moral of the story? In some ways this reads more like a long short story than a novel. I didn't experience the transformation of the character. Esme's truer disappearance -- not just the physical disappearance from the world into an asylum -- is the disappearance of her free spirit as a woman who doesn't want to marry and who wants to choose her own destiny. That was the interesting theme for me. I wanted to see more how that disappearance happened on a day by day basis. instead, it was implied more than anything else. It's still a good book. Just not the book I thought it was going to be. That's my take on it anyway.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 24, 2008, 9:03:35 AM PDT
Dea says:
I wish we had seen more of Esme's confrontation with Kitty. I felt like I was fighting through the crowd of people along with Iris to see what happened between the two sisters. Still, I wonder what kind of resolution there would have been satisfying. To me, that's the tragedy of the story - Kitty's dementia and Robert's death leave no way to really resolve Esme's tragedy in a satisfying way.

As for why Esme didn't try to escape the asylum, I believe that losing her son after giving birth truly broke her. Kitty relates going to see Esme one more time after Robert is born and only being allowed to peer at her through a hole in a door - it sounds to me that Esme is in solitary confinement in a padded cell. While I do think Esme had some mental issues beforehand, I believe being raped, commited, and then having her son taken from her truly drove her mad, at least for a while. Frankly, going mad after that sequence of events seems like the only sane response to me.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 11, 2008, 3:12:05 PM PST
Philsphan says:
SPOILERS:: Yes, the book had some super ideas, but it fizzled at the end. And as soon as the rape scene occurred, the "mystery" was over. The real monster was Kitty and her horrible parents. At the very end, we assume that Esme has strangled Kitty to death. ok. That's it? No more resolution? No more communication between Esme and her granddaughter? We have to assume Esme was actually insane, I guess............ But why??? I wanted a better POW at the end.

Posted on Jan 20, 2010, 4:17:21 PM PST
I just read this for book club and now found I won't be able to make the discussion group. Rats. I also would like to discuss the end. I agree with the above post that calls for better resolution. Did Esme strangle Kitty? Suffocate her with the pillow? Bring one of those razors that Iris has left so carelessly about? I, too, would have liked to know how the calm, gentle Esme that Iris sees can be the same Esme that Kitty peers at through the door. Too much disconnect. I felt that the author wanted us to think that Esme was going to kill Kitty, but in the end, she would not. She would leave Kitty in her own prison while she walked away, free at last. Hard to believe she would willingly consign herself to the rest of her life behind bars. And her thought processes as given to us by the author show a rational, sane woman who has intact memories, the ability to keep track of time, and ponder relationships of others. Thoughts anyone?

Posted on Aug 21, 2010, 9:20:06 AM PDT
I thought the ending was only logical.

Posted on Oct 27, 2012, 11:05:16 AM PDT
Margaret says:
Yes, Esme did have mental issues before she was raped. It was because, at a young age, she had seen her baby brother die and had been alone with his body for three days. Wonder where the parents were. But, of course, she then had to relive this tragedy when her own son was taken from her.
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Participants:  6
Total posts:  6
Initial post:  Dec 30, 2007
Latest post:  Oct 27, 2012

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The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell (Hardcover - October 24, 2007)
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