Friday, 13 February 2015

Book Review - Elizabeth Is Missing

Well this is a first. I set myself a challenge of reading a book each month by an author I'd not read before. It's only 13th of the month and I'm reviewing my third book by a new author.

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey is a mystery story - where is Elizabeth? The protagonist is Maud, an 82 year old who suffers from Alzheimer's. She lives in a world full of confusion and shifting reality. Pockets full of notes remind her what she can do, what she mustn't do and what she has done but these only leave her more confused. When she can't find her friend Elizabeth she starts to search for her, driving everyone else mad in the process. Mystery also surrounds Maud's sister who went missing 70 years earlier.

 Maud is a fascinating character. She is dogged in her attempt to find her friend even though she has a flimsy grasp on reality. Her memory of her sister's disappearance is crystal clear which acts a stark contrast to the confusion of her recent memories. I have little knowledge of Alzheimer's beyond what I gather from the media but looking at the world through Maud's eyes was fascinating. Even her grasp of language fails her at times when she can't remember the words for things. This would really scare me - as an avid reader and amateur writer I would hate to lose language. But for Maud it is just the way it is and Emma Healey conveys the confusion of a mind slipping away beautifully.

The two mysteries entwine both in Maud's mind and in the narrative of the novel. The narrative switches from the present to Maud's past and the reader is given clues to the fate of the two women. Although the answers to the mysteries isn't really much of a surprise, there are enough red herrings to keep the reader interested.

The secondary characters are interesting too. Maud's family are torn apart by her sister's disappearance and feelings of helplessness. Maud's daughter and grand-daughter deal with her Alzheimer's in different ways - the frustration of her daughter is wonderfully handled and feels all too real.

I didn't want the story to end and I loved living in Maud's world for a while, although I was all too glad to leave it behind and get my marbles back! If you liked 'The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared' or 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry' then you will enjoy Elizabeth Is Missing'. 

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