March 12

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Before you even hit the first line of this book, you need to wade through 2 whole pages of rave reviews from a mass of publications (not to mention the front cover which is laden too).  The New York Times,  the Observer,  Marie Claire, you name them, they reviewed it ….. & surprise, surprise, they loved it!

Clearly the publishers know what they are doing – all those marvellous reviews at the get-go can definitely make a new title extra sparkly and shiny and create a siren call  ‘READ ME‘.  Well, I fell for it, answered the call and picked this Sunday Times bestseller up  and shuffled out of my bookstore feeling pretty damn pleased with myself.

That didn’t last long.

I am sorry to say, this book nearly killed me. I finished it but it took every damn thing I had.  It’s not a bad book. Great writing, really fabulous idea, lots of layers and complexity.  It is dark, funny and tender.

I just didn’t enjoy it.  I tried, I really, really did.

The story centres around Maud who has dementia.  Her days and nights are a constant mix up of places, memories, people, things.  It is gut-wrenching and scary stuff but is saved by some savvy, clever lines delivered by Healey who breaths grace into Maud’s mad muddling.  But there is one thing Maud is not forgetful about – her friend Elizabeth is missing.  Maud keeps notes everywhere trying to piece together the disappearance of her friend and she never, ever lets it go.  She is relentless in her pursuit – when she remembers what all the pieces actually mean, that is.

Underneath this tale is however another, more sinister mystery.  When Maud was a teenager, her sister Sukey mysteriously disappeared so the book splits between the two different stories of Maud’s constant searching for answers.  Like I said, this book appears to have it all.  I simply found it incredibly hard to read.  I don’t know if it was because you are meant to feel the frustration of Maud’s forgetfulness and therefore it makes you one of the poor desperate characters who have to deal with her antics. Perhaps this is it. I certainly was frustrated.  The repetition drove me bonkers.

But in part too I was cross at myself for missing the fabulousness all the reviewers were raving about.  I beat myself up with each line.  I simply did not get what all the fuss was about. And so it compounded my disappointment and my readers-regret.

But don’t let this one bad review sway you. It is definitely great book club fodder so I recommend putting it on your list because I think books that draw out extreme reactions are just what book clubs are about.

I just won’t be picking up another book with a mass of rave reviews covering it for a wee bit. I don’t think my ego can take it.

But that is just my two cents worth……..