Thursday, 2 March 2017

Elizabeth is Missing - Emma Healey

An intriguing title, a superb protagnist but then the interest fizzles out.

I had heard a lot of the book. The first page is full of great reviews and it did a lot to liven up my expectations. Alas, it did not deliver as promised, despite an impressivelyl packaged cover and premise.

The cover does draw you in. "How do you solve a mystery when you can't remember the clues?" That coupled with the fact that the person solving is a 82-year-old dementia patient is enough to pique average curiosity and mine was no different. It was a shame it did not sustain till the end.


Maud is 82 years old with dementia. She cannot remember anything and is looked after by her daughter and carers. However in her muddled up state, she has one clear memory of a friend Elizabeth, who she worked with at Oxfam. Something is gnawing at her and she determined that Elizabeth is in trouble. She has been ridiculed for her attempts to call the family but she hellbent on finding out where she is.

Simultaneously, the story shifts to a wartime scenario where Maud's younger self is living with her family and something happens that changes the family forever.

The past shows a young, impressionable Maud who witnessing something, she is unable to make sense of. At some point, the past and the present collide. It finally gives meaning to Maud's present, senile existence.

What works:
  • Healey inhabits 82 year old senile mindset so well. It is so easy to associate and empathise with the confused character who has no bearings of herself. It is a brilliant portrayal and I loved it for that reason alone. 
  • The wartime narrative though is interesting, I found myself waiting for the present narrative which had lots of interesting characters such as the daughter Helen and her grand daughter. 
What doesn't:
  • I found the wartime narrative boring and although there was a sense of whodunnit to it, it seemed stretched out. Some solid editing would have tightened the piece up.
I am not sure if it was the hype that put me off or if it was the story. The story starts off well and I loved the protagnist but then it did not last long and there was a sense of "how long till it comes together". 

An OK read but a very interesting protagnist. For that reason alone, it is worth a read, I would say.

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