Good Reading : September 2006
SEPTEMBER 2006 ı goodreading 17 The case histories O’Farrell relates in the novel, when Iris looks through Cauldstone’s records, are all true. ‘Every single one is real. I wanted the book to do that, to represent things as they actually were. Obviously I cherry-picked the ones that were the most shocking, the most awful – I mean, certainly, there were ones that were understandable, but I chose the most awful.’ The fate of these young women began to haunt Maggie O’Farrell. ‘It was something I became really obsessed with – these women who are put away because they’re inconvenient or behave badly, and never get out again. I’ve also been inter- ested in what happens to the same type of women at different times in history. In the early twentieth century she’d have been put in an asylum; in earlier centuries she’d have been accused of witchcraft. Inconvenient, disobedient women don’t fit, and so societies developed different ways to deal with them. The sins of them. I’m very grateful I live in the time I live!’ I was struck, while reading this novel, O’Farrell’s fourth, and her previous novel The Distance Between Us, by the strong theme of the relationship between sisters that features in both. ‘I’m really interested in sisters,’ O’Farrell told me. ‘I’m the middle one of three sisters, and we’re all very close. I think siblings are one of the most important things in life, certainly in my life.Your position in the family and your relationship with your siblings is your initial relationship in life, and everything else comes out of that blueprint. I’m interested in people who don’t get on with their sisters, because I find it such an impos- sible thought. It’s something I wanted to explore. I often think that people write what they know, but they also write what they don’t know about the things they know. Often you write to answer questions for your self and I started thinking what would happen if that sibling intensity got too much.’ At the beginning of The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, there is a chillingly prescient episode where an infant Esme is suddenly abandoned in the middle of a lunch party and left strapped in her highchair, alone in the dining room. When she is still only a child, her parents and sister go off to a house party leaving Esme and her baby brother Hugo with the ayah (they are living in India at the time); while the rest of the family is away, Hugo and Jamila, the ayah, die of typhoid fever and Esme sits all night clutching her dead brother, whose body has to be prised from her arms. As a reader, you’ll find yourself haunted by this novel, by Esme and the terrible betrayal she suffers, her stolen life. As its writer, Maggie O’Farrell was emotionally drained. ‘Writing Esme took a lot out of me, actually. I feel done in by it,’ she confessed. ‘It’s one of those books that … I’m finding it hard, not to forget it, but it’s still living in my head at the moment. It took so long, it was such a big thing to actually get to it and write it properly. It’s the novel I’ve wanted to write for a very long time. I actually tried to wr ite it first, but I wasn t really able to do it. I ended up abandoning it for After You’d Gone, my first novel.’ And what’s next? ‘I’m going to lie fallow for a bit, I think. I have plans for a novel, but I haven’t quite started it yet. I’m doing a lot of research; it’s going to be set in London in the 1960s, so I’m reading up about that at the moment.’ Can’t wait. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is published this month by Headline Review, rrp $32.95 cover story This month 15 lucky winners could win a copy each of The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell valued at $32.95 each. To enter simply write your details on the back of an envelope and mail to The Vanishing Act Competition’, GPO Box 3835 Sydney NSW 2001 or enter online at www.goodreadingmagazine.com.au TERMS AND CONDITIONS 1.Information on how to enter forms entry. 2.Entry is open to all residents of Australia and New Zealand who are readers ofGood Reading magazine. Entries must be made between 1/9/06 and 30/9/06 and be sent to Good Reading Magazine, GPO Box 3835, Sydney NSW 2001. Employees and their immediate families of the promoter and agencies associated with this promotion are ineligible. 3.The judge’s decision will be final and no correspondence will be entered into. Prizes are not transferable and cannot be taken as cash. Any change in the value of the prize occurring between 01/6/06 and the date the prizes are claimed is not the responsibility of the promoter and any difference in prize value will be the responsibility of the winner. The total prize mentioned is the recommended retail value as provided by the supplier and is correct at the time of printing. Prizes will be provided by Hachette Livre Australia. 4.The first 15 valid entries drawn will each win a copy ofThe Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, valued at $32.95 each. The total prize value is $494.25. 5.The draw will take place at no. 9 Stephen St Balmain NSW 2041 at 11 am on 1/10/06. The winners will be notified by mail and their name will be published in the November issue ofGood Reading magazine on 27/10/06. 6.The promoter shall not be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever that is suffered or for any personal injury suffered or sustained in connection with the prizes. 7.The promoter accepts no responsibility for late, lost or misdirected mail. 8.The promoter may conduct such further draws at the same place as the original draw as are necessary on 24/1/07 in order to distribute the prize if it remains unclaimed by that date, subject to any written directions given under Reg 37 of the Lottery and Gaming Regulations 1993 (S.A.). 9.All entries become the property of the promoter. 10.The promoter is Good Reading Magazine Pty Ltd of 9 Stephen St Balmain NSW 2041 ABN 38 003 750 150 NSW Permit no.TPL 06/08026 ACT Permit no.TP 06/03072 Win! You’ll find your- self haunted by this novel, by Esme and the terrible betrayal she suffers, her stolen life.