Elizabeth is Missing is about 82-year-old Maud’s journey as she searches for her friend, Elizabeth. With onset dementia, Maud tries to solve the case by piecing together a collection of self-written post-it notes. Whilst unravelling these clues, memories of another old case are triggered for Maud, who faces a losing battle with her illness as time and her deteriorating thoughts work against her.
Basing this story on a character suffering with dementia limited the paths the plot could take and that is where things truly faltered. I wouldn’t describe this book as a mystery as all the pieces of the puzzle are given to you. You don’t have to guess what happens next or what the next twist will be. Instead, we wonder when all the pieces will fit together for Maud and whether she will solve both cases, which will eventually entwine, in-keeping with her increasing confusion. The author manages to keep both stories clearly separate and easy to read even though they are so clearly muddled in Maud’s mind.
Emma Healey beautifully depicts Maud’s journey. She narrates cleverly, building on Maud’s confusion and steady decline in mental health. In the initial stages of the book, Maud is able to keep her memory together for larger sections of a chapter but as the story progresses these segments become shorter and more frantic, highlighting her state of mind as it worsens. Healey skilfully introduces snippets of information that helps the reader progress with the story whilst staying true to Maud’s dementia, leaving the reader feeling like the character is stuck in a heart-breaking cycle she cannot escape. This execution by the author is really superb.
If there has ever been someone in your life with dementia then Maud is likely to tug at you. I found Maud a little frustrating and would often lose patience with her, yet found her comical and quite endearing. I love that the author was able to make me feel this way about a fictional character.
The high ratings the book received influenced my decision to read it. I was aware that pulling this story off would involve a slow pace and an element of repetition in-keeping with Maud’s dementia. However, what disappointed me about the book was that once I was able to connect all the dots in the story I felt immensely restless as it left little to the imagination. It’s such a shame, as Maud is such a wonderful character, but I feel the author revealed her cards too soon – possibly because this was her first book, but I definitely feel she has great promise so will be keen to monitor her next steps.
Overall, it was a real shame for me as it had the potential to be brilliant, but unfortunately, ended up as a book I won’t be recommending.
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Had the potential to be brilliant but had something missing. Unfortunately ended up as a book I won’t be recommending.
Reviewed by Prima Patel
* Prima’s book reviews are also available at Goodreads.