It’s a pleasure to shine a spotlight on The Vanishing of Margaret Small here today. Published on 16 November 2022 by Embla Books, an imprint of Bonnier Books, it’s available in ebook, (and Kindle Unlimited), Audio and Paperback formats. There is currently a blog tour for the book arranged by Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers; this was one that I very much wanted to read and review but just couldn’t fit in. ‘The perfect for fans of….’ was an extra hook for me – I love books by both these authors and this debut by Neil Alexander sounds irresistible.
What the book is about:
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.
Perfect for fans of Libby Page and Gail Honeyman.
What reviewers are saying:
‘Funny, sad and uplifting all at once, The Vanishing of Margaret Small by @neilalexander_ is a terrific story, with a twist I didn’t see coming and a heroine who’ll stay in my mind for a long time. Recommended‘. Frances Quinn, author of The Smallest Man and That Bonesetter Woman
‘A tender, thought-provoking and totally gripping novel from a wonderful storyteller…deserves to be a huge hit!’ – Matt Cain, author of The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle
‘A little warning upfront: this story is likely to break your heart. But it will also fill your soul with joy and hope … and have you laughing out loud at moments too! An absorbing, thought-provoking and skilful debut’. Lovereading Staff Pick (and December Audio Book of the month)
‘I cannot begin to say how much I loved this book, it was so much more poignant than I was expecting and had me utterly gripped and heartbroken from the first chapter’. Reviewer @little_wolfsbks (Instagram)
…And there’s more:
Neil Alexander has tweeted a couple of videos explaining the background and inspiration for the story.
It’s Day 1 of the Blog Tour for ‘The Vanishing of Margaret Small’. To celebrate, I’ve made a two part video talking about where the idea for the novel, which took 14 years to write and publish, came from and what it’s all about 🧳#TheVanishingofMargaretSmall pic.twitter.com/XOqLxBg91F— Neil Alexander 🧳 (@neilalexander_) November 17, 2022
To celebrate Day 1 of the Blog Tour for ‘The Vanishing of Margaret Small’, here is Part 2 of the video, with me explaining what the book is all about 🧳 #TheVanishingofMargaretSmall pic.twitter.com/mT6kPW8qM2— Neil Alexander 🧳 (@neilalexander_) November 17, 2022
Neil is a graduate of the Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ course, taught by Esther Freud and Tim Lott.
His first book, The Vanishing Of Margaret Small (Embla Books, publishing Oct 2022) tells the story of 75 year-old Margaret. After the death of her idol Cilla Black, she begins receiving sums of money in the post from an unknown sender who simply signs-off as ‘C’. Margaret is convinced they are somehow being sent from Cilla! To solve the mystery, she 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.
Much of the inspiration for Neil’s first book 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 Mencap. As the charity’s Artist Liaison Manager, he was instrumental in bringing BBC Radio 2 presenter, Jo Whiley, on board as a brand ambassador (Jo’s older sister, Frances, is disabled). Together, with a small team, they created Little Noise Sessions, an annual series of acoustic gigs held at the Union Chapel, Islington (and later St John at Hackney church), to raise money for the charity. During the festival’s hugely successful 8-year run, Neil worked very closely with Jo to secure acts such as Coldplay, The Killers, Adele, Amy Winehouse, Noel Gallagher and Florence and the Machine. Neil began his career working in health journalism and occasionally still writes for newspapers and magazines. He has also had poems published in Magma, The Interpreter’s House and Southbank Poetry, and in 2013 his pamphlet 9 Blows to the Head was shortlisted for the Pighog Poetry Prize. He is a regular performer at LGBT literary salon Polari at London’s Royal Festival Hall. Neil currently teaches English at a Secondary School in South East London and is working on his second novel, publishing in 2023 by Embla Books.
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