In 2015 The world Alzheimer’s report stated there are currently 46 million people worldwide suffering from some sort of dementia related illness and that figure will double each year going forward. Like cancer or any other large global illness, we all know someone with dementia and to be honest with those figures, it’s a scary thought that anyone of us reading this piece could fall victim to it. That brings me onto this month’s second book, its Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey, published by Penguin in 2015 (www.penguin.co.uk).
Maud forgets things, the cup of tea she made earlier, what she went to the shops for. Even where she lives and her own family, are at times, strangers too her. But one thing Maud does know is that her friend Elizabeth is missing. How? Because there’s a note in her pocket. No matter who she tells, even the police – no one believes her and they just tell her to forget it. Whatever else she may mentally let go of, Elizabeth’s disappearance isn’t one of them. Maud is in her eighties. So, she isn’t just pushing against everyone else in her search for the truth about her friend’s whereabouts, she’s also trying overcome the cloying effects of her illness. On top of that, there’s the mystery surrounding what happened to her sister 60 years ago, can Maud work out the clues in her rolling ship of a memory? Is Elizabeth even missing? Did her sister ever return?
I read a lot of books, as you can gather and if you’ve read most of these reviews you’ll be aware that I have a fifty-page rule. If the book doesn’t get me by fifty pages then I put it down, as life’s too short to read bad books. This book, I had to put down not before fifty pages but at one hundred and eighty-six!!!! Why? Because the writing and storytelling was so compelling, I got upset. Maybe I was at a low time in the year, this was strange because when I picked it up and started reading it, I was on a week’s holiday in the Algarve with my new wife, enjoying blue skies and temperatures of 30 degrees in late September. But for some reason I got all worked up about dementia and started to wonder what would happen if I got dementia and how I would cope with it? Silly isn’t it?
I’ve read other books that have upset me in the past and as I said then, I’ll say now. It’s not a sign of failure, but of success on the authors part and here Emma Healy has
succeeded in getting the reader into the shoes, or more appropriately, the disheveled mind of Maud. If Agatha Christie had given Miss Marple Alzheimer’s, herself and Maud would be almost alike.
In those one hundred and eighty-six pages that I read and from what I ascertained from friends and acquaintances who have read the full two hundred seventy-five. Healey keeps you on the edge of your seat and at times your heart in your mouth, with worry and concern for our heroine as she goes about trying to solve the two mysteries.
This is British writer Emma Healey’s (www.emmahealey.co.uk) first novel and was inspired by her grandmother. She grew up in London and studied art in college. In a recent interview in The Times, she admitted that at sixteen she contemplated suicide, but that art saved her. After working in libraries, universities and bookshops around the UK she eventually settled in Norwich in 2010, to complete her MA in Creative Writing and never left. Elizabeth Is Missing won the Costa First Novel Award in 2014 and was shortlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize in 2015, there is currently no news on her next book.
The only bad mark against this book is that there is a lot of jumping back and forth between present day and post world war II Britain as Maud tries retrace the final movements of her sister and recount run-ins with her shifty brother-in-law. Mixed with the constant disruption caused by her faltering and decimated memory it can get a bit confusing. Maybe it’s planned that way? As well as that, there is a rather dark comedic element to Maud’s predicament which at times serves to lighten the mood of the book.
I never apologise for wearing my heart on my sleeve and letting my emotions get the better of me. I’m not alone in letting thoughts of our own mortality rise to the surface, but to quote James Shirley in Death The Leveller “There is no amour against fate…”. We must just get on and enjoy life as best we can.
What I read of it, this was a lovely book and as other reviewers such as Debra Moggach and Emma Donoghue have claimed, it is a haunting and unsettling read that will stir and shake you. So, if you can lock your fears of mortality and the future in a metaphorical steel casket for a while, then go out and buy or download a copy of this book.
From myself and the other contributors to the Library Door, we’d like to take this opportunity to again thank you for visiting the site over the past year and hope you’ve enjoyed reading the reviews as much as we have writing them. Thank you to the publishers who keep my postman busy – especially Karen in Orenda books who continually surprises us with regular parcels. If you are an author or publisher and you’d like to send us copies of your latest releases you can contact me on twitter @apaulmurphy or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org . We hope you had a great Christmas and wish you a very happy New Year.