Published: 2015 by Penguin | Pages: 275 | RAD Book Club Book #4
‘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.
I found that although ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ focused on a difficult subject matter, Healey approached the topic with a lighthearted touch. She has written a witty novel, and many aspects of the book are recognisable to those of us who have had family experiences with dementia. I feel that Healey’s novel will definitely help raise awareness of dementia to the wider population, but also acts as a gentle reminder of the day-to-day struggles that people with dementia go through.
The key focus in the book is Maud’s gradual loss of independence which increases as the novel progresses. I found that Maud’s awareness of her condition quite upsetting, but really enjoyed her dogged determination to carry on being a necessary part of society. In general, Maud definitely brings a warmth to the narrative.
In book club, we discussed how Maud’s story can be read in two different ways.
Firstly as a true story. I felt that this idea made the novel more disturbing, and made the story incredibly relevant to today’s need for furthering awareness and knowledge of dementia. An alternative view, is that the novel can be read as a fairy tale. So the actions and events which take place throughout the book are not supposed to be realistic. I’m not sure which way I read the book, but I enjoyed discussing both options during book club.
The only issue I had with the book overall was the ending. I found it somewhat disappointing, and unrealistic. Yes, there was definitely a sense of satisfaction as the mysteries of both missing Sukey and Elizabeth were solved, and that Maud did still have some grasp on reality and the truth. But at the same time, it did seem very convenient to end the novel in this way.
Overall I really enjoyed Elizabeth is Missing, and found the use of dementia throughout the book emotional, yet enjoyable. I would definitely recommend this book to friends and family. A good 5-star read for me!