The Vanishing of Margaret Small – Neil Alexander

Meet Margaret Small: 75, plain spoken, Whitstable native 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.

Book Info: Print length: 325 pages. Publisher: Embla Books. Publication date: 16 Nov 2022

Neil Alexander

Much of the inspiration for Neil Alexander’s debut novel, ‘The Vanishing of Margaret Small’, came directly from the voices of people with a learning disability, and the incredibly moving first person accounts of living in long stay institutions, which he heard while working for the UK charity Mencap. Neil, who has a Masters degree in English Literature from the University of Kent at Canterbury, began his career working in health journalism. Originally from Northern Ireland, he now lives in the seaside town of Whitstable in Kent. He currently teaches English part-time and is working on his second novel. You can follow Neil on Twitter @neilalexander_ and Instagram @neilalexanderwriter

My Review:

If you follow my blog and reviews you will know I absolutely ADORE quirky characters and when I saw the blurb for The Vanishing Of Margaret Small I knew I had to read it.

Let me introduce you to Margaret Small, our narrator. She has spent most of her childhood and much of her adult life at St Mary’s – a home for children with learning difficulties and disabilities and now aged 75 she lives by herself in Whitstable with the support of Wayne, her care worker.

As a lifelong superfan of Cilla Black, Margaret is grieving deeply since Cilla died and unable to read, she listens to Cilla’s autobiography on audible constantly. When she receives a letter with £50 and an accompanying note signed “C” (which the man at Sainsbury’s kindly reads for her), she’s convinced her heroine is back from the dead.

With a heartbreaking dual timeline, the reader is taken back to 7 year old Margaret as her grandmother sends her to live at St Mary’s. Abandoned, alone, distraught and confused little Margaret is subjected to the most awful abuse at the hands of those who are meant to care for her and there are many uncomfortable scenes that literally broke my heart.

The Vanishing of Margaret Small is an emotional journey from her childhood to present day. Margaret may have been slower than others and unable to read or write but she has the biggest heart. Her sweet innocence, her kindness and compassion for others shines through.

This is a beautiful book about hope, love, acceptance, forgiveness and “anyone who had a heart” can’t help falling in love with Margaret and hoping she finally gets a happy ever after.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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