Elizabeth Is Missing

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey
Published by Penguin
Published 1 January 2015
275 pages

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I read this for 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The category is ‘a book with a red spine’.


‘Elizabeth is missing.’ Maud keeps finding notes in her pockets with this message scrawled on it, but she can’t remember writing it. That said, she can’t remember much these days: the time of day, whether she’s eaten lunch, if her daughter’s come to visit, how much toast she’s eaten. Still, the notes about Elizabeth nag at her. When was the last time she spoke with her best friend? It feels like ages ago…

Frustratingly, no one seems willing to help Maud find her: not the police nor Elizabeth’s son – not even Maud’s own daughter or granddaughter. It’s like they’re hiding something.

Maud resolves to take matters into her own hands, and begins digging for the truth. There are many clues, but unhelpfully, they all seem to point to another unsolved disappearance: that of Maud’s sister Sukey just after the war.

Could the mystery of Sukey’s disappearance lead Maud to the truth about Elizabeth? As Maud’s mind retreats into the past at a frightening pace, alienating her from her family and carers, vivid memories of what happened over fifty years ago come flooding back to give her quest new momentum. 


‘You know there was an old woman mugged around here?’ Carla says, letting her long, black ponytail snake over one shoulder.


I’m not completely sure how I feel about Elizabeth Is Missing. I was wavering between giving it a three or star but went with four stars in the end because it made me cry a little. This book isn’t what I was expecting and I didn’t like some of it. One issue I had is the way the book handles dementia. Maud’s dementia is quite far advanced. I felt she was at the stage when she couldn’t be left on her own. She was wandering out of the house and could easily have come to harm because she was so confused. I felt her family were neglectful of her at first. I thought Maud, however, was a great character, very realistic of someone with dementia. My gran, who’s been dead for sixteen years, had dementia. She came to live with my family when neighbours told my mum she was wandering the streets in her night-dress, looking for her dog that had died ten years before. Maud reminds me a lot of her. She’s a well written character. I found the narrative confusing at times. I didn’t mind that it moved back and forth in time. I like this structure in novels. It just wasn’t always clear what time we were in. I suppose this helped to convey Maud’s confusion but it could have been handed a bit better. The title is a misnomer – Elizabeth is not missing, it’s just Maud’s memories of her are missing and confused in her head with her sister’s disappearance thirty years before. I felt a little bit cheated. Never mind, Elizabeth Is Missing does involve a mystery, just now what I was expecting. There is a lot of misdirection, caused by Maud’s memory and I suppose it’s good the author went in an unexpected direction. I ended up really liking Elizabeth Is Missing and would recommend it.




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