Elizabeth is missing

by Emma Healey

A book group choice, which I red several months in advance of the planned dicsussion meeting.  This book has been very much ‘hyped’ and available at booksellers over the past year or so, and I had considered buying a copy, but rejected it.  For the purposes of book group, I managed to get a copy from the library in good time.

The Elizabeth of the title barely appears in the book.  We eventually find out that she has had a stroke and is in hospital.  But her friend, Maud – in the early stages of dementia and still living on her own – is convinced that she must find Elizabeth.  In searching for her, she recalls events from her childhood which eventually fall into a story of passion and murder.  Maud unwittingly helps to solve the crime.

I felt that this book was a valiant attempt at showing what it might feel like to be inside the mind of a dementia sufferer.  But the truth is, none of us has any idea of the true horror of this condition for the person afflicted.  Maud does exhibit behaviour which the people around her see as abnormal: she forgets to eat, and finds it difficult to negotiate her daily activities.  She behaves in ways that frustrate her daughter: repeating phrases and actions, insisting on Elizabeth’s disappearance, and causing her daughter some anxiety.  She occasionally displays aggression.  But on the whole, and perhaps because the author has chosen to tell the story from Maud’s point of view, the reader is inclined to see her actions as benign and her reasoning as valid.

I can’t say that I enjoyed this book.  It left me feeling almost as muddled as Maud herself – and perhaps this, too, was the author’s intention!