Well, this month we read ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ by Emma Healey. The evening started with much chatter, the eating of cake (although this took a rather slow start as no-one wanted to be ‘first’, but soon gained swift momentum) and a small round of musical chairs. Once everyone was beveraged (if this isn’t a word, it so should be) and comfortably seated, we were able to focus our attentions on the book in question.
The story follows Maud, an 82 year old women who suffers from dementia. Through her, the reader is given an insight into the day to day struggles and frustrations of a person with dementia and how they impact on the people around them. When Maud becomes concerned about the ‘disappearance’ of her best friend, Elizabeth, she begins to have flashbacks to her past, surrounding the unsolved disappearance of her sister Sukey, 70 years previously. The reader is then taken on a journey with Maud, focussing on the present day (which includes plenty of post it notes) as well as the very clear memories of her youth and the circumstances surrounding her sister’s sudden and unexpected disappearance. Her friend Elizabeth being ‘missing’ triggers these past memories and she needs to follow them through to find the answers she is looking for.
Overall this book was positively received and most felt the story was very well written, although, it was generally agreed that due to the slow pace of the book, the end felt a bit rushed. However, this could possibly have been intentional on the part of the author to show the sudden progression of the dementia. The detail and style of writing were very evocative, so those who had first-hand experience of dealing with dementia, truly appreciated the insightfulness and detail as they were able to relate to it on many levels and it gave them an understanding of dementia from the point of view of the patient. On the flip side, the writing was also considered very ‘close to the bone’ and it brought up emotions, so much so, that reading it proved difficult. The strong emotional reactions certainly reinforce how well written this book is, and surprisingly, the main point of disagreement was with regards to Douglas (the lodger) – was he a weirdo with stalking tendencies or was he just a poor misunderstood chap with honourable intentions?
It was generally agreed that those in the health care services would (and have) recommended this book to colleagues as they found it very beneficial in a professional capacity too. So if you are up for a bit of an emotional ride, with the possibility of shedding a tear or two, then I would say give this book a go. Happy Reading Folks…………………
(Written by Linda-Jean Delport.)