Elizabeth is Missing, by Emma Healey
Published by Penguin, 1st January 2015
Source: Purchased (second-hand)
Trigger warning: dementia
Elizabeth is missing. At least that is what the note in Maud’s pocket says. So does the one on the wall. Both are in her handwriting, but she cannot remember writing them. Maud has been quite forgetful lately. She makes cups of tea and then leaves them lying around her house, undrunk. She keeps buying tinned peaches even though her cupboards are full of them. And her pockets and handbag are full of hand-written notes to remind her of things.
But Maud is determined to get to the bottom of her friend Elizabeth’s disappearance. In spite of everyone’s assurances that Elizabeth is fine, Maud is convinced something is wrong. When even the police won’t help her, she decides to mount her own investigation. Now if she could only remember what she is investigating…
Wow, this was such an interesting book. I picked it up after a friend recommended it to me and I really enjoyed it. Maud’s dementia makes her such an interesting protagonist for a mystery novel. She is an unreliable narrator as she constantly forgets what she was just thinking or doing. But there is always the underlying feeling that something is in fact going on. In spite of everyone in her life dismissing her worries and confusion because of her dementia.
The novel also has two timelines running in parallel. In the first, Maud is elderly and frail, desperately trying to find her friend Elizabeth. In the second, Maud is a young girl whose sister Sukey has disappeared, seemingly run away, leaving her new husband and her family behind. I really enjoyed these storylines and how the investigation into Elizabeth’s disappearance brought back all the memories from her sister’s.
I loved Maud as a character. Although on a slippery slope into dementia, she is feisty and determined and fiercely loyal. I could picture her so clearly in some of the situations she gets herself into and hear her voice in my head. The author’s portrayal of dementia is brilliant. It perfectly captures the anxiety and confusion of someone suffering from this condition. It is heartbreaking, but also very funny at times.
This was a great book for my 2021 Reading Challenge too, for prompt No5: A book with a protagonist over 50.
My rating: 4/5