Part character study, part mystery; this book, written by Maggie O’Farrell, will have you wondering how an intelligent, albeit highly strung young woman could be entrapped in a mental institution for over sixty years. The title character, Esme Lennox, spends her childhood in India and then returns to Scotland with her family. The family views the adolescent as hard to handle and a misfit in proper society. Circumstances lead to her being committed to Cauldstone Hospital. Years later, her great-niece Iris Lockhart is notified that the hospital is closing and Esme is being released. Iris never knew of the woman’s existence; her grandmother Kitty always claimed to be an only child. Here is a conundrum that evolves into something more.
The narrative, told in turn by Iris, Esme, and Kitty, gives depth to the characters. The plot briskly advances towards the conclusion. The reader will be indignant at the ease with which misbehaving women can be locked away for life. Will justice be done?