Today’s topic: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey.
(No huge spoilers ahead)
The synopsis says:
‘Elizabeth is missing’, reads the note in Maud’s pocket in her own handwriting.
Lately, Maud’s been getting forgetful. She keeps buying peach slices when she has a cupboard full, forgets to drink the cups of tea she’s made and writes notes to remind herself of things. But Maud is determined to discover what has happened to her friend, Elizabeth, and what it has to do with the unsolved disappearance of her sister Sukey, years back, just after the war.
You can find this, and the book, here.
Firstly, I want to talk about the discussion of dementia. In the book, what Maud is suffering from is never actually mentioned but you can deduce from her behaviour that it’s something like dementia. It really highlights the struggles of the family as well as the actual sufferer. A really emotional section is when Maud forgets her daughter, Helen, but as you’re reading from Maud’s point of view, you see that she thinks a stranger is beside her crying but then you feel her emotions when she realises that it’s actually her daughter; it’s heartbreaking.
It also displays the stigma that surrounds the disease in society and how people deal with it. Something that really stood out to me was an event in which Maud decided to go to the police station to report Elizabeth as missing. The police officer laughed at Maud as it transpired that she’d already visited many times that week, she just couldn’t remember. This part really bothered me as in a situation like this, being laughed at is not what this person needs. I think it represented how people don’t really know how to deal with this and perhaps don’t understand the severity of the situation, just thinking that she was a bit forgetful. There were scenes when it felt like Maud was being dehumanised and mocked which was so upsetting to read.
I also wanted to mention the structure of the narrative. I thought it was incredibly clever and makes reading the story really interesting. It follows Maud’s life at the present time along with flashbacks to her young life prompted by events in her older life. It flicks between her search for her friend Elizabeth and her sister, Sukey, who went missing when Maud was young. It turns into a mystery of two dimensions which was so interesting.
I have to admit, I found the mystery of Sukey the most intriguing and the ending is so satisfying for this part of the story. The truth about Elizabeth, although I won’t spoil it, is a shock but so sad. Also, as a history student, I absolutely loved the flashbacks to WWII England and the culture it portrayed.
I personally felt a lot of frustration with Maud as she was an unreliable narrator (never thought I’d use that phrase again – at least A-Level English taught me something!). There were times when you weren’t sure what was in her head or actually happening. Although I felt this frustration, I came to the realisation that this was probably what it was like for sufferers of this as they’re living in such confusion. This was such an eye-opening read.
I really recommend reading this book. I would say it’s a bit slow to start with but definitely stick with it because the way the ending unfolds is brilliant. Also, it discussing such an important topic and even though it’s from a young writer, I think Healey captured the essence of the tough situation so well.
I hope you enjoyed this post. I love featuring books and book reviews on my blog so please let me know if you enjoy them. I’d love to hear any more suggestions of books I could read and possibly review!