Book Reviews

The Vanishing of Margaret Small by Neil Alexander @neilalexander_ @emblabooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n

Happy new week! I’m excited to share the review of an extraordinary book today. In fact, I might go as far as to say it’s a good one to gift someone for Christmas!

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.

Perfect for fans of Libby Page and Gail Honeyman.

Did I like the book?

Very very much. Difficult at times but never trying to steal tears from the reader. It is carried by an undercurrent of hope like a feather slightly touching each and every word. A story I am glad I read. 

Did I enjoy reading it?

Neil Alexander’s writing is flawless in the art of knitting past and present. Dual timelines and the mysteries of a life can be tricky to put on paper and he does it skillfully. It is easy to get transported into Margaret’s world. 

“Don’t judge yourself the way others judged you in the past.”

What did I feel?

The strength of this novel lies in its main character, Margaret. We meet her at 75, living on her own with the help of her social worker and characters inhabiting her everyday life, like the supermarket clerk or the music shop owner. You can instantly sense something sweet in Margaret and I felt my attachment to her grow really quickly. 

Margaret is a longtime fan of Cilla Black, a singer who passed away recently, and she listens to her autobiography every day. This detail both warmed my heart and broke it. I too find comfort in a unique audiobook I listen to. 

Margaret’s life gets disrupted when she received a letter with a banknote signed “C”. Could this be coming from Cilla herself?

Timeline change. Margaret, a kid of 7, is sent away to St Mary’s, a home for kids with disabilities and learning difficulties. She is confused, alone, and distressed, and her years in this place made me shiver more than once. The author captured the heartbreaking reality of the institution and what definitely happened behind too many big walls in those years. 

I loved discovering Margaret’s life both in her past and in her present. The stories intertwined to create a complete picture of Margaret’s intense and emotional journey. 

There is more to a person that the box you put them in, their ability to write and read, and what you see. Margaret is a beautiful character with a heart of gold, a sweet innocence you want to preserve, and limitless kindness. 

How would I describe it?

Big. Worth reading. 

You can get your copy from Amazon

I’d like to thank Tracy at Compulsive Readers for taking me on this great journey with such a lovely book.


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