The Vanishing of Margaret Small by Neil Alexander

My Five Word TL:DR Review: Ultimately heartwarming tale of injustice


The Vanishing of Margaret Small is a book that falls outside my typical style of reading but it caught my attention and I do love a story with a dual timeline so decided to give it a shot.  I was granted an audio copy and I will say I really enjoyed the book in this format.  The narration was really good.

I would say that the VoMS ddin’t feel totally unique to me in some ways, but, I read a lot of books and it stands to reason that certain themes or plots will eventually have a familiar feel.  That being said, this is a lovely, heart warming, also terribly sad though ultimately uplifting story but what really kept me on board with this book was the central character.  Margaret is very easy to like.  She brought a smile to my face more often than not and even though I was at tims outraged at the way her freedom had been so cruelly and casually stolen from her she actually took things very much in her stride.

To sum this up quickly Margaret is, at a young age (7 or 8 I think), put into an institution for children with learning difficulties by her grandmother.  She remains in this institution until she’s in her thirties when she’s told she can leave to live in supported accommodation.  As a child Margaret received no education, owns no possessions, is badly dressed and often mistreated.  As she gets older she’s often in charge of various tasks and obviously none of her time is paid for and to be totally honest her story is shocking (all the more so because stories such as these genuinely took place).  Literally, because Margaret suffered from learning difficulties she was ‘vanished’ from society – how truly awful. Put me in mind of those young women who were similarly put in institutions for having become single mothers.

Anyhow, now in her 70s Margaret has been receiving letters and gifts in the post from an unknown source, signed simply ‘C’.  Margaret has a slight obsession for the late singer and tv star Cilla Black and thinks that Cilla is communicating with her from the grave.  She eventually confides in her support worker Wayne and the two go on a voyage of discovery.

What I really enjoyed about this.  I loved the split timeline.  To be fair I preferred the chapters where we cast back to Margaret’s time at the institution.  She had a dreadful life really but. knowing no better, she had a strangely accepting way of taking life in all it’s worst guises and simply getting on with things.  That being said witnessing the way Margaret manages to get herself round certain tricky situations was amusing to say the least.  She may have missed out on a formal education but life has taught her some lessons of it’s own and it put a smile on my face to see how resourceful she was.

I love a book that makes me want to go back and examine things through history and this book did make me want to do more research so I have to applaud that.

The writing is good and in fact I was surprised to discover that this is a debut and the narrator does a great job of bringing Margaret to life.

Although this isn’t my usual type of read I enjoyed it very much.  I think this will definitely appeal to readers who like a little history and injustice rolled up with a mystery.

I received a copy through Netgalle, courtesy of the publishers, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 3.5 stars of 5 (rounded up to 4 due to the ‘feel good’ factor).