Monday, 13 February 2017
Guest review by Anne Cassidy - ELIZABETH IS MISSING by Emma Healey
Review by Anne Cassidy
ELIZABETH IS MISSING centres on Maud an elderly lady who has dementia. Written in the first person it is Maud who tells the story of the present and her concern for her friend, Elizabeth, who is missing. Elizabeth is not at her house and Maud struggles to solve the mystery of what has happened to her. The character of Maud is completely convincing. Her struggle with dementia is outlined in every scene. She lives her life through making notes about things and then is confused when she reads those jumbled notes. Through her eyes we see her frustration at not being taken seriously by her carer and her daughter who both seem bewildered at her inability to do things right; her insistence at boiling an egg until the pot is burned; her trips to buy cans of peaches even though she has a cupboard full of them. The reader is bewildered too. Why can’t she just follow instructions; how is it that she can’t find a name for those things you drink out of. Anyone with any experience of dementia in their family will recognise these stages.
It’s a powerful and poignant representation of an illness. Maud’s grief at not knowing what has happened to her friend turns her into an amateur and confused detective, looking through windows, placing adverts in the local paper, facing the wrath of Elizabeth’s son.
Amid Maud’s confusion about the present are her crystal clear memories of the past, when she was a teenager and her married sister, Sukey, went missing. These passages of the book are triggered by events in the present and a story emerges of post war life, a family still on rations, the older daughter married to a spiv and idolised by her younger sister. Then Sukey disappears and is never found. Maud, the teenager, goes through the grief of someone missing and the desperation to know what happened to them.
This is a novel about two missing women, Elizabeth and Sukey. There is also a third though; Maud’s illness is slowly erasing her personality so that she will be the missing person in her family.