“My reflection always gives me a shock. I never really believed I would age, and certainly not like this.”
Hello cool cats and kittens. I finished my first book of February (fourth overall in 2021), and it was a book that was not even on my to-read list. I randomly came across this book on eBay while ordering another book- the seller was doing a buy one get one 20% which I couldn’t skip, and this was the cheapest option so here we are.
Elizabeth is Missing is the debut novel by Emma Healey, and what a fine debut this is. The book follows the protagonist Maud, an elderly grandmother who is dealing with dementia and the gradual loss of her memory. Maud can barely remember where she is sometimes, but she knows for a fact that her best friend Elizabeth is Missing. She tries to communicate this fact to those around her- her dutiful daughter Helen, her carers, the police, and even Elizabeth’s son- but no one will listen and they think she’s just a dotty woman rambling about nonsense. Elizabeth is not the first person in Maud’s life to disappear with no explanation; in 1946, nearly seventy years prior, her older sister Sukey vanishes without a trace, leaving the family bereft. The book switches seamlessly from present to past, as the parallels in the cases come to light. In her increasingly befuddled and erratic state, Maud presses on in her search for the truth even as she looses her hold on reality.
First off, wow. The author, Emma Healey, does an amazing job depicting dementia and capturing life from the lens of a person dealing with this condition. I could feel the fear and confusion that Maud felt, and also the shared frustration of Maud and those around her. This for me was the true sadness and terror of the book- the thought that one day I might lose my faculties due to old age, I am already quite forgetful as it is. Just now I was watching a YouTube video on my phone and I paused it, got up and went around my room looking for my phone. Such a Maud thing to do. It is so scary and I pray I don’t get dementia (or Alzheimer’s which apparently is a form of dementia. I was always confused about the two). The book reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time in which the main character was a 15 year old with some sort of autism spectrum disorder. I felt it gave a good insight into the life of a person on the autism spectrum and was surprised to see that the author said this was not his intention. He probably just didn’t want to get cancelled.
The book is well written and easy to read. The transition from present to past was done really well; I particularly liked how the writer segued into the past by linking something Maud has just done in the present. Quite a few of her idiosyncrasies are actually events from her past which her muddled mind has sprouted up much to her confusion and everyone’s annoyance. There were a few times when I did not know if we were in the present or past, but that was quickly resolved when I read a bit further.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I’m glad I came across it. While reading the book, I kept trying to imagine how it would be depicted in a movie (I do this quite often when I read). The emotions, thoughts, anxiety are so vivid in print that I always struggle to see how these could possibly be adequately captured in film. I googled the book and it has already been made into a TV film. I’m waiting for it to be free on Amazon Prime so I can watch it, and I hope they do the book justice.
On to the next book! This one might take me the rest of the month to get through. Now that I don’t have a daily commute I have to carve out the time to read. Between work and Netflix/Youtube I barely have any time left.
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