Review: Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

Posted June 20, 2014

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey
Published by Penguin Genres: Contemporary
Source: NetGalley

‘Elizabeth is missing.’ Maud keeps finding notes in her pockets with this message scrawled on it, but she can’t remember writing it. That said, she can’t remember much these days: the time of day, whether she’s eaten lunch, if her daughter’s come to visit, how much toast she’s eaten. Still, the notes about Elizabeth nag at her. When was the last time she spoke with her best friend? It feels like ages ago...

Frustratingly, no one seems willing to help Maud find her: not the police nor Elizabeth’s son - not even Maud’s own daughter or granddaughter. It’s like they’re hiding something.

Maud resolves to take matters into her own hands, and begins digging for the truth. There are many clues, but unhelpfully, they all seem to point to another unsolved disappearance: that of Maud’s sister Sukey just after the war.

Could the mystery of Sukey’s disappearance lead Maud to the truth about Elizabeth? As Maud’s mind retreats into the past at a frightening pace, alienating her from her family and carers, vivid memories of what happened over fifty years ago come flooding back to give her quest new momentum

Maud is concerned about her friend Elizabeth. She is missing. The problem is that Maud’s memory is failing her and no-one will believe her.

We journey through the book with Maud. We’re inside her mind, a mind that forgets things – words, people, places. Her pockets are stuffed with notes written in her own writing but she has no recollection of writing them. There are cold cups of tea and an abundance of peach slices in her home, and even her toaster has a note on it telling her not to make toast. Among the many notes she finds on her person is the message that Elizabeth is missing.

The story is written beautifully, the staccato style reflecting the thoughts in Maud’s mind. Things in Maud’s life trigger memories from her childhood. Memories that are clear and fluid, a stark contrast to her memories in day-to-day life. It’s through this that we learn about Maud’s childhood. In essence we follow two stories simultaneously; elderly Maud trying to find Elizabeth and young Maud whose sister Sukey suddenly disappears.

I really like the way this novel works, often flitting between stories as Maud’s brain jumps from one to another. Personally, I feel that Healey has captured beautifully the workings of Maud’s mind.

I have experienced family and friends suffering from dementia. It is heartbreaking. So I really wasn’t sure how I would feel about this book…it is fantastic though. I could relate to a lot of it having seen loved ones go through a similar process. The difference with this novel though is that it makes you look at the world from the sufferer’s perspective, something that I think is truly valuable.

Although this is a far from amusing subject I found myself chuckling as Maud seems to feel everyone around her is mad! The shopkeeper questioning her buying of peach slices, the policeman who seems to know her by name, her daughter who won’t let her boil an egg. She is a determined lady and she will not let her forgetfulness or lack of cooperation from others stand in the way of finding her good friend Elizabeth!

This novel demonstrates experience and understanding of the subject matter. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Maud’s life, both her youth and in her older years. I will admit though that at first I wondered where the book was going, I felt I was getting quite far in & nothing had really happened. However once I accepted the pace and style of the novel I really enjoyed it.

I truly feel that this book opened my eyes as to what dementia sufferers go through. It’s a small glimpse, but it’s poignant.

An electronic copy of Elizabeth Is Missing was received through NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely our own and completely honest.