I’ve had Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey on my TBR since it was first released but never got round to reading it so I was delighted when it was chosen as our August book in the U3A reading group to which I belong.
Elizabeth is Missing is published by Penguin and is available for purchase through the links here.
Elizabeth is Missing
Maud is forgetful. She makes a cup of tea and doesn’t remember to drink it. She goes to the shops and forgets why she went. Sometimes her home is unrecognizable – 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 seventy-year-old mystery. One everyone has forgotten about.
Everyone, except Maud . . .
My Review of Elizabeth is Missing
Maud has one thing on her mind – to find Elizabeth.
A confession. Initially I wasn’t keen on Elizabeth is Missing and I don’t really know why, although I’ll say more about that later. Perhaps it was a book I wasn’t in the mood to read. However, as this was a book for my reading group and the members I spoke to were all raving about it I carried on. Before I knew what had happened I was completely absorbed in the narrative and loving every carefully crafted, poignant and perfectly placed word. I ended up thinking Elizabeth is Missing was just wonderful!
Although there’s plenty in the plot to enjoy and uncover, I genuinely felt that the plot didn’t really matter. For me, the sheer delight in reading Elizabeth is Missing was in meeting Maud, in understanding who she is and why she is!
Maud is such a magnificent creation. Her failing memory, her dementia and her determination make her someone the reader cannot help but care about. Anyone who has encountered a loved one with similar issues will find the resonances so touching and realistic. My heart went out to Helen, Maud’s daughter. I had total empathy with her as her life is affected by her mother’s illness and obsessions. I think Elizabeth is Missing could provide solace for some readers and genuine insight for others. This is such beautifully modulated writing. The fact that this is Maud’s first person account makes it all the more affecting.
The structure of Elizabeth is Missing is brilliant. The sections segue between past memories and present events seamlessly so that Maud’s reasoning is perfectly understandable, even when she is most confused. The kaleidoscopic refractions of her memories are echoed by the items she collects and manipulates, giving the reader a true comprehension of who she is, making her warm, human and genuine. I thought the way the strands of the narrative are drawn together was so skilfully crafted that I ended the book with huge admiration for Emma Healey’s writing.
Having begun reading not entirely sure I was going to appreciate Elizabeth is Missing I ended the process completely convinced that I had read a book of true quality. I even wonder if my hesitancy at the beginning was deliberately created by the author – I had my doubts about Maud in the same way those around her in the story have doubts about her memories and recollections. And she is a somewhat unreliable narrator after all. However, through accomplished and consummate writing I was drawn in to the story until I felt I was almost a part of it too.
Elizabeth is Missing is a moving, emotional book that leaves an almost physical sensation in the heart of the reader. I loved it.
About Emma Healey
Emma Healey, a former bookseller, grew up in London where she went to art college and completed her first degree in bookbinding. She then worked for two libraries, two bookshops, two art galleries and two universities, and was busily pursuing a career in the art world before writing overtook everything. She moved to Norwich in 2010 to study for the MA in Creative Writing at UEA and never moved back again. Elizabeth is Missing, her first novel, was a Sunday Times Bestseller, won the Costa First Novel Award 2014 and was shortlisted for the National Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year.