Book group: Elizabeth is missing

From the October/November 2016 issue of our magazine, for our book group we read Elizabeth is missing.


Elizabeth is missing book cover

Emma Healey's debut novel, Elizabeth is missing, gained glowing reviews when published and continues to be widely recommended. The story centres on 82-year old Maud as she unravels the mystery of her friend's disappearance, but also of her sister's vanishing decades before.

Roberta Wiseman, Assistant Librarian at our Dementia Knowledge Centre, says,

'This is a gripping, emotionally engaging and at times funny exploration of what it's like to have dementia, and what it's like to care for someone with dementia.

'The relationship between Maud and her grown-up daughter is particularly well done, and captures what it's like to feel love, grief, exasperation and guilt about a relative with dementia.'

The book opens with Maud outside at night, clutching a fragment of an old compact case found in her friend's garden. She knows it is important, but can't remember why.

Outside at night 

Janet Dandy in Lancashire says she felt transported into the mind of Maud, whose perspective is taken throughout. She says,

'The book emphasised to me that the person with dementia can often sense when other people are annoyed, impatient, sarcastic or amused by their actions and conversations, even the people who love and care for them.'

On Talking Point, marionq says,

'The author really got inside the head of someone with dementia – the compulsions, the confusion, the effect on other people.'

creativesarah, also on Talking Point, adds,

'I found it very evocative. The strong images within the story reflect so well what it's like to live with, or alongside, dementia.'

After reading it, Mary Sherwood lent the book to members of her Dementia Carer Network at the Met Office in Exeter. She says,

'It was very popular, and several carers commented that it provided valuable insight into the person they cared for. We think we understand but we are still seeing with our eyes and not theirs – this book is an eye-opener.'

Unlikely lead

Margot Tilbury in Hampshire says,

'This is the book I wanted to write when my mother was living with dementia.

'The unlikely lead character is dismissed as a confused old woman, yet she more than anyone senses what is going on in this page-turner of a thriller. Her endlessly patient daughter, like so many of us, can only hope to cope from day to day. A brilliant read.'

Donna Rawling in Greater Manchester says,

'I read it six months after my mum passed. This book for me was like a beautiful gift.

'The story resonated so much with my own experiences of Mum – the rituals that are performed over and over, the need to have copious supplies of certain things. In the book it was mints in every pocket, scattered as a trail, Hansel and Gretel style, as a get home safe aid.'

Occasionally moved to tears by it, she adds,

'Despite its subject matter, I didn't want it to end. It reminded me of what an amazingly strong, loving and well-loved woman my own mum was.'

Maud's resolve

Yvette Wetton in Essex says,

'Despite her stop-start approach to detection, no amount of dissuasion is going to dispel Maud's niggling concerns or her resolve to find out what has happened to Elizabeth. This is tricky when you can't always remember what the clues are or even what decade you are living in.'

Beate on Talking Point agrees,

'Maud isn't quite sure what's going on anymore but she knows one thing for certain: someone is missing and she has to delve into her past to try and make sense of it. It's a fascinating read, quite sad too.'

LadyA, another Talking Point member, says the author provides a beautiful insight into Maud's mind. 

'Her confusion, but also her behaving in a way that, at that particular moment, seemed the only logical way to act to her.'

Yvette adds,

'The book takes a very unexpected turn in its final chapters, but I won't spoil it for you – I'll leave you to find what happens for yourselves!'

Elizabeth is missing by Emma Healey (Penguin, 2015), 288 pages, £7.99, ISBN: 9780241968185.

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