Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,
When I was in school, probably about eighth grade, we read The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. What a creepy story: a woman whose doctor and husband make her "rest" all the time until she goes mad.
I had no idea that this short story was an early work of feminist literature, and back in the Dark Ages of my youth, I don't think we even knew the word "feminism."
Women were (and some still think are) too emotional and not in control of themselves. The patriarchy sometimes demanded that they be locked up because they were diagnosed with hysteria.
I found a literary descendant to The Yellow Wallpaper's protagonist in The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell.
Iris, who "isn't used to dealing with things that are . . . untouched," receives a call about Euphemia Lennox––a name she doesn't recognize. She's shocked to learn that this woman is her grandmother's sister, who has been locked up in a mental institution for 60 years. Now that the hospital is closing, Iris is expected to take responsibility for Esme, as the stranger prefers to be called.
No one can tell Iris anything about Esme. Iris's grandmother has Alzheimer's, her mother never heard of Esme, and her father is dead. What's to be done with Esme, and why has she been in the hospital all these years?
O'Farrell moves deftly between Iris's present with Esme and Esme's memories of her youth as mysteries unfold. I enjoyed the style of this novel very much and found it difficult to put down; thus, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox earns The Janie Junebug Seal of Highest Approval.
Another book I hope to read soon is by our good friend Susan Flett Swidersky, who blogs at I Think; Therefore, I Yam. Her new book is
Infinities of love,