Elizabeth Is Missing – Emma Healey: Review

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Overall opinion: Substance of the book is led mainly by character, rather than a quick paced plot-line. Generally a “nice” read rather than something you get hooked on.

Elizabeth is Missing, and so is something else…

Synopsis: In this darkly riveting debut novel—a sophisticated psychological mystery that is also a 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, who 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?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book and this isn’t necessarily a BAD review, but I couldn’t help but feel that I was cheated out of something. Not that I actually know what that something is, which is actually ironic seeing as the main character, Maud, can’t remember what she’s looking for either.

I’m not going to lie, it took me a while to get into this book. And when I say a while, I actually mean 6 months. Perhaps that’s because I had just read the greatest book I’ve ever read in my life, which I still can’t stop thinking about, and then came to this straight afterwards, but I just couldn’t bring myself to continue reading it, and stopped before chapter 3. But a few days ago I thought “hey, maybe I should try and read that book again now that I haven’t read anything in half a year…”

Honestly, I’m glad I did, because it was a generally good book, but it was a very slow starter for me. The writing was very clever, as it’s written from the point of view of a 90-something year old woman called Maud, who suffers with Alzheimer’s disease. She struggles to remember why she went to the shop, let alone trying to solve the mystery of the illusive “Elizabeth”.

We get varying flashbacks of her childhood memories of her beloved sister “Sukey” and when she went missing, with teenage Maud trying to solve the mystery. These are actually my favourite parts of the book as they actually go somewhere, we get details and storyline. The rest of it was very slow moving, and I get the point of it all, with her memory not being good, and she feels frustrated not being able to remember, etc. but for me it was a very frustrating read, and I wanted the other characters to tell me things, not just “you know what happened, Maud, we’ve been through this.”

HOWEVER, I was thoroughly determined to get to the end, and I’m glad I did, because the last few chapters were great, and answered all of the questions that the rest of the book had stuffed my brain with. I just feel like I wanted something MORE. More details about the solved mystery at the end. But because Maud couldn’t remember specifically what she’d been told, we never find out. We just get a general rushed version of events when her daughter Helen goes on a mad spree.

One thing I did love about this book though, was the vivid images of the characters that I was given. I feel like I knew each character, and each one of them had very different personality traits, especially the quirky humour of Maud in contrast to her very stern daughter Helen. And even though Maud had lost most of her memory, she definitely did not lack in compassion and made me smile with joy at times, and others nearly (not quite) but nearly weep for her.

Overall Elizabeth is Missing is a very good read and brilliantly written, and I would recommend it to others, maybe it just wasn’t quite my cup of tea.



8 thoughts on “Elizabeth Is Missing – Emma Healey: Review

  1. edinaely92 says:

    Maud’s family actually responded in a very typical way. My Nan couldn’t remember that her best friend had died and kept asking if we had seen her. We kept having to tell her again and again. It was painful for us as my Nan’s friend was like a second mother/grandmother to our family. We got to the point where it was easier for us to say we’ve been over it.
    The frustration her daughter feels is so relatable because you’re not sure if the person is deliberately being difficult (my Nan was often difficult before she got ill) and there is frustration because they are no longer the person you knew.
    They become locked inside themselves and travel back to another time, a time you know nothing about. My Nan would just scream at something we couldn’t see or hear.
    The plodding pace is completely appropriate. It is a slow, plodding and ugly disease that strips away the person.

    Liked by 1 person

    • InCaseOfBookishness says:

      I’ve also had a family member suffer with the disease, and it is awful. I was just saying that, for me personally, I prefer books with a faster pace. But I also said that it is written beautifully and I completely agree that the tone is exactly right for the content, it just wasn’t my taste of book personally, just my opinion I’m not saying that anything is wrong with it at all, hence the 4 star rating I gave it.


      • edinaely92 says:

        I really wasn’t having a go at you. I’m just explaining that it is accurate and painfully so.
        It can be a tough and slow paced read but that is what I’m enjoying about it. I too prefer a book with more action. ☺

        Liked by 1 person

      • InCaseOfBookishness says:

        Oh no, I know, don’t worry! I just didn’t want it to come across as close minded 😊 Also probably didn’t help that the book I’d read before this absolutely ripped my heart into 10000 million pieces 😂 it was definitely an interesting read though, completely different to anything else I’ve read and I enjoyed that about it.


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