Thursday, 22 January 2015

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

Emma Healey has chosen a less trodden path to create a mystery by giving her narrator, octogenarian Maud, dementia. The missing pieces that will solve the puzzle are mixed up with the lapses of memory in Maud’s own mind. How can she put together the mystery of the past when she cannot remember if she has eaten lunch that day?

But dementia is a weird beast, and it seems the past is very much more real for Maud than the present. When Maud discovers a broken mirror in her friend’s garden it triggers recollections about the disappearance of her sister in the years just after the war. Married to Frank, a charming black-marketeer, Maud’s sister Sukey is warm-hearted and popular with all who know her, including Douglas, the awkward lodger at Maud’s parents’ home.

The broken mirror is a clue, but how did it turn up in the garden of Elizabeth, Maud’s best friend? Maud does her best to keep track of the things she needs to remember by keeping notes in her bag. Among these are several that say the same thing: that Elizabeth is missing. But Maud’s daughter only throws her hands up in despair when Maud asks her for help.

Slowly the missing pieces come together with an ending that is as much a surprise for the reader as it is for Maud and her daughter. With Maud as narrator, Healey has created a gem of a novel that is compelling from the first page and brilliantly captures the mind of someone with dementia. It is amazing to think that this is the first novel by a writer in her twenties. Very much recommended.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Elizabeth Is Missing

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