15. ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ by Emma Healey

In March I went to a Penguin book bloggers event, where I was let loose with a tote bag and told I could pick up anything I wanted. One of the books I took was Elizabeth is Missing. At first I wasn’t sure about it, but when I heard the author read an extract I was utterly sold and now I’m very glad I didn’t leave it behind.

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Maud is an old woman who forgets things and, to aid her memory, she writes notes to herself. Sometimes this causes more problems than it solves, but she can be sure of one thing: her best friend Elizabeth is missing.

So Maud sets out on a mission to find out what has happened to Elizabeth. Nobody will help her – policemen laugh in her face and her long-suffering family just sigh when she questions them – but she is determined to solve the mystery, whatever it takes. Along the way we learn that Maud has lost somebody close to her before (when Maud was a teenager her sister also went missing), and as she hunts for Elizabeth she uncovers more truths than she is ready for.

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I really liked Maud’s character: she is single-minded in her quest but she also has to struggle with her dementia. She often forgets the words for things, or can’t remember how she has ended up somewhere, and these forgetful moments are heartbreaking for the reader. Healey portrays Maud’s illness with honesty and sensitivity, and she doesn’t shy away from the family’s reactions either: there’s the absent son, the ever-patient daughter who occasionally snaps, and the granddaughter who tries to find humour in everything.

The ending was not entirely unpredictable – I had a pretty good idea of where it was going from about two thirds of the way through – but this doesn’t make the story any less satisfying. In fact, the reader is in the unique position of always knowing more than Maud does, mainly because we remember everything she forgets. This book perfectly balances present day with flashback, and deals beautifully with its tragic subject matter. I loved Elizabeth is Missing and I think you will too.

Elizabeth is Missing

If you liked my review, why not buy the book and let me know what you think? Elizabeth is Missing is available from 28th May 2014.

5 Comments on “15. ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ by Emma Healey

    • Thanks for linking me to the Q&A – some really insightful questions there :)

  1. Looking forward to reading it. I didn’t pick up a copy at the bloggers’ night because there is quite a lot of dementia hanging around my family at the moment causing problems, & I thought it might be a bit too upsetting to read it, but the reviews I’ve read of it so far suggest that it’s actually fantastic and I am missing out.

    • Oh, I’m really sorry to hear that.
      Of course there is a lot of dementia in this book, but it is fantastically well-written – perhaps give it a try and see how you get on :)

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