Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healey

elizabeth-is-missing

Maud can’t remember the last time she saw Elizabeth. She doesn’t know why she has dirt under her fingernails or how she got to the bandstand in the park. But she knows that Elizabeth is missing. She knows that. The note in her pocket tells her so.

This book is an interesting look into the mind of an elderly lady with (assumed) dementia, who’s desperately trying to remember what she knows she needs to remember.

Following in the footsteps of many contemporary novels, it to-and-fros between past and present time, concentrating on twin mysteries – the disappearances of her sister and of Elizabeth. As the novel goes on, the two begin to merge, both in plot and in Maud’s confused mind.

It’s touching and sad and well-written, but I’m afraid it’s yet another book for me, in terms of plot and character, which didn’t live up to the hype that surrounded it.

It’s probably to do with the fact that Maud is, understandably, such an unreliable narrator. However, I don’t think that this is a good enough excuse for there to still be unanswered questions at the end of the novel.

I found myself much more engaged with the postwar story line which followed a young Maud and the suspicious disappearance of her older sister, Sukey. I felt thoroughly emerged in Healey’s 1940s London, and since the narrator is a lot more reliable in these sections, I felt a more solid attachment to the plot and a more emotive relationship to the characters.

If the feeling of loss and misunderstanding around the present day story of Maud and Elizabeth is intentionally meant to reflect the confusion and chaos in the mind of the protagonist, then Healey has done a thorough and good job.

If you like intentionally unreliable narrators and literary fiction then this is the book for you.

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