Review: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Challenge criteria: A National Book Award winner (Costa Book Awards totally count)

Blurb: Maud is forgetful. She makes a tea and doesn’t remember to drink it. She goes to the shop and forgets why she went. Sometimes her home is unrecognisable – or her daughter Helen seems a total stranger.

But there’s one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing. The note in her pocket tells her so. And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, to leave it alone, to shut up, Maud will get to the bottom of it.

Because somewhere in Maud’s damaged mind lies the answer to an unsolved 70-year-old mystery. One everyone has forgotten about.

Everyone, except Maud. . .

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What I liked:

Emma Hanley portrayed a character with dementia fantastically. Maud’s severe forgetfulness, and fixation on past events, is pretty much what you would expect, and she wrote it very well.

You really do feel for Maud when she gets muddled, and it’s pretty upsetting to see her get frustrated and annoyed by all the actions we do take for granted.

Despite his having been so far away, Tom was a lovely relief character to break up the tension felt between his sister and his mother.

What I didn’t like:

I come from a family that’s been affected by Alzheimers and dementia (my grandfather had the disease for six years before he passed away) and seeing Helen’s behaviour toward Maud at some stages in the book was heart breaking. Yes, it’s a hard thing to live with, but there is no call for words and actions such as those.

It was obvious Helen didn’t care for her mother. When my grandfather suffered with Alzheimers, he wasn’t left alone for more than 30 seconds. It’s a risk.

To then see Maud, a woman so ravaged by dementia she leaves the gas on or buys the same thing in the shop numerous times a week, left to live alone when clearly, she was no longer capable, was heart breaking. Frankly, Helen disgusted me.

It was sometimes difficult to follow the flow of the story with the quick jumps from present day to the tale of the disappearance of Sukey, Maud’s sister.

Out of five?:

Three. A slightly repetitive story, and anyone who’s well versed in thrillers and mystery novels will have the twist figured out within a few pages. (I wrote my prediction and gave it to my friend, and I wasn’t very far off.)

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