Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Review: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Title: Elizabeth is Missing    
Author: Emma Healey        
Published: June 2014, Harper  
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages   
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours  

In this darkly riveting debut novel-a sophisticated psychological mystery that is also an heartbreakingly honest meditation on memory, identity, and aging-an elderly woman descending into dementia embarks on a desperate quest to find the best friend she believes has disappeared, and her search for the truth will go back decades and have shattering consequences.

Maud, an aging grandmother, is slowly losing her memory-and her grip on everyday life. Yet she refuses to forget her best friend Elizabeth, whom she is convinced is missing and in terrible danger.

But no one will listen to Maud-not her frustrated daughter, Helen, not her caretakers, not the police, and especially not Elizabeth's mercurial son, Peter. Armed with handwritten notes she leaves for herself and an overwhelming feeling that Elizabeth needs her help, Maud resolves to discover the truth and save her beloved friend.

This singular obsession forms a cornerstone of Maud's rapidly dissolving present. But the clues she discovers seem only to lead her deeper into her past, to another unsolved disappearance: her sister, Sukey, who vanished shortly after World War II.

As vivid memories of a tragedy that occurred more fifty years ago come flooding back, Maud discovers new momentum in her search for her friend. Could the mystery of Sukey's disappearance hold the key to finding Elizabeth?

My thoughts: This is Emma Healey's debut novel and it was quite captivating and intriguing. This is a compelling look at the aging process told in the first person narrative and I have to say, I thought it was well done!

Maud is losing her memory, suffering from dementia and so she leaves notes for herself all over the house. These notes are supposed to help her remember what she's already figured out or what she's supposed to do. What she does know is that her friend Elizabeth seems to be missing. This becomes the main focus of her days, trying to find out what happened to Elizabeth. Not helping the situation is that Maud is able to remember the fact that her sister, Sukey, went missing when Maud was a young girl. 

I loved how this story is told in the first person present tense. You get the feeling of Maud's frustration with her memory loss - how she starts to do something or go somewhere only to get there and not know why she's there. Alternating with this, we get flashbacks of the past to the time when Maud's sister went missing, right after WWII. This is shown in such clear detail which is in contrast to the unreliable present-time story. She clearly remembers much more about the past than she does the present, which shows us how her mind is working and not working.

While this is a fast read, it's not an easy read. It's very easy to relate to Maud's daughter Helen whether you've gone through this with an aging parent yet or not. You can palpably feel the tension that these characters are dealing with. Is Elizabeth really missing? Maud's unreliability as a narrator make you question this quite a bit. 

This is a book that stays with you long after you finish reading the last page. I know for sure that Maud is not going to be a character I forget anytime soon.  I am definitely looking forward to seeing what comes next from Emma Healey as this book is quite brilliant for a debut novel!

About the author: Emma Healey holds a degree in bookbinding and an MA in creative writing. Elizabeth Is Missing is her first novel. She lives in the UK.

Authors Links: 
Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook   



To see who else is participating in Emma Healey's Elizabeth is Missing tour, click here



  1. Oh I am so putting this on my list :)

  2. This sounds like a fascinating book. I always like a contrast of past and present and this sounds like it's at even greater contrast with the memory loss. Great review!

  3. Sounds really good. I love to discover debut novelists.

  4. Hmm I just hate the thought of dementia and how distressing it must be. Sounds like the author did a good job with the exploration of it.

  5. I love when characters stick with me long after I close a book for the final time.

    Thank for being a part of the tour!


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