Published Jan 2010
Long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2008
‘Ladies and gentlemen, behold. It is most important to keep yourself very still. Even breathing can remind them that you are there, so only very short, shallow breaths. Just enough to stay alive.’
Edinburgh in the 1930s. The Lennox family are having trouble with their 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’s 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? The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is a stunning depiction of a life stolen and reclaimed: an outstanding achievement from one of our finest novelists.