The Vanishing of Margaret Small – Neil Alexander

Published By: Embla
Released On: 16/11/2022

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.


Thanks to Embla for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

I’d been seeing this book all over my Twitter feed and I was reading nothing but five star reviews so I jumped at the chance to read it.

I instantly took to Margaret. She was such a gorgeous character and had me on her side almost immediately. Neil has captured Margaret’s character and spirit brilliantly, she just leaps off the page.

I love the dual timeline of Margaret in the ‘home’ in the 1940s-1970s, and now in her twilight years. It’s a really wonderful and cleverly crafted contrast.

Margaret as a child and as an adult was so delightful. There are other characters in it obviously, and they do well to support Margaret’s story, but for me this was her story only and it grabbed me. It’s heartfelt and just a really gorgeous book.

I thought the inclusion of Cilla Black was somewhat nice to have as a mainstream plot point. I love the relationship Margaret has with Cilla and this kinship shows her to be a kind and caring woman. There is more to the Cilla story than at first at look and it was a fantastic medium in which to tell that story.

The scenes in the ‘home’ really show how far we’ve come in how we treat those different to us, but we’re not perfect. Neil has managed to portray this cruel world, but still find some beauty in it.

My mum used to teach at a school for children with additional needs and so physical/mental disabilities have never been a big thing for me – especially as I’ve come to develop a physical dislike of my own. It’s lovely to see a main character with additional needs and whilst it is a main plot point obviously, her disability is not a hindrance, it is not played up to and isn’t there for comical effect. She’s as good a main character as any other.

It’s so multi-layered; it’s simply fabulous, full of sadness and grief, but mostly full of heart and joy and hope. It’s got extraordinary emotional depth. Margaret Small reminds me of Eleanor Oliphant; completely original and unforgettable.

It is such an accomplished piece of writing and storytelling, it makes for an unbelievable debut novel. I seriously hope there is more to come from him.

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