Title: The Vanishing of Margaet Small
Author: Neil Alexander
Genre: General Fiction/ Literary Fiction
Goodreads Rating: 4.58
Meet Margaret Small: 75, plain spoken and a Cilla Black super fan. Shortly after the death of her idol, Margaret begins receiving sums of money in the post, signed simply ‘C’.
She is convinced it must be Cilla, but how can it be? To solve the mystery of her benefactor Margaret must go back in her memories almost 70 years, to the time when she was ‘vanished’ to a long-stay institution for children with learning disabilities.
An absorbing and page-turning mystery with a dual timeline, The Vanishing of Margaret Small takes readers into a fascinating past, and introduces an unforgettable literary heroine
I’d like to thank NetGalley and Embla Books for approving me for an ARC of this book.
Where do I even begin? Everyone and I mean everyone needs to read this book! I defy anyone to not fall in love with Margaret Small, she is the most loveable character you could ever meet and once you know her history you can’t help but love her more. This story is told in a dual timeline. We have present-day Margaret who is struggling to understand why she keeps receiving letters from someone called ‘C’ and Margaret as a child/teen/ young woman telling us her story inside the walls of St Mary’s.
I honestly found it so hard to hear what she had endured as a child in St Mary’s and I don’t think I can have hated a character more than Nurse Cunningham! The sad fact of the matter is that whilst this book is a work of fiction it is based on real stories and my heart breaks to think of what people with disabilities, physically or mentally, went through in the 1940s-1980s. As Margaret tells us her story I wanted someone to help her and give her the life she deserved. Whether it was Joan, Eva or kind Sandra, the people she trusted kept abandoning her and each time my heart broke a little more for her.
Present-day Margaret is a creature of habit and I love the simplistic life she lives. You have to admire the life she has built for herself, considering her institutional life. When the letters and gifts start appearing I immediately want to know who it is. This level of mystery grabbed me straight away and kept me listening. I had a few theories running through my mind and after one or two surprises we finally learn who the mystery sender is. I was pleasantly surprised and felt that this gave the story a lovely ending worthy of Margaret.
Whilst this book does deal with some very hard truths there are some lovely moments of laughter. From Margaret’s unwavering faith to Cilla Black to Charisma and her unladylike qualities, there are quite a few moments to make you smile. Wayne was a huge supporting role for Margaret and he too comes with his own quirky personality which is why I think he gets on so well with Margaret.
I’m not ashamed to say that this book brought tears to my eyes even before I got to the end. My heart ached for Margaret and the life she could have had but I was also proud of her accomplishments and her unwavering faith in human kindness. Everyone needs a Margaret in their life and I’m so pleased that I got the chance to meet her, even if it’s just in the fictional world. Her story and the untold stories that this book is based on will stay with me for a long time. Now all I need is for Neil Alexander to hurry up and write his next book, I need more of this beautiful writing in my world!