Muddled Memories

Elizabeth is Missing


Emma Healey’s debut novel has had an astronomical release with book prizes, nominations and stellar reviews all over the place but in spite of all that I must admit that I came to read it with a bit of trepidation. I don’t usually follow the trends and leap into a recent prize-winner for fear of hype affecting my expectation but the concept of Healey’s novel intrigued me too much to leave for long. What also delayed my devouring of this novel is the subject matter and the fact that my darling grandmother suffered from a developing level of dementia when she passed away. The change in her and the effect it had on me has meant that I usually avoid watching or reading anything to do with the subject for fear of reliving memories and yet there was something different about Elizabeth is Missing that intrigued me beyond all that…

Elizabeth is missing. This much Maud knows and yet no one will listen to her. She has written it on many a post-it note and yet she can’t get anyone to pay any attention – not her daughter, granddaughter, or carer. Even Elizabeth’s son will not listen and yet she cannot think why unless something more sinister is happening. If only she could piece together enough of the clues to find out what but on some days, she isn’t even entirely clear on who or what she is looking for…

Writing a novel from the perspective of an 82-year-old woman who is suffering from dementia is no easy task and yet the insightful and considerate narrative of Healey’s debut is astonishing. She captures the confusion without the cliché and manages to move the narrative forward whilst still allowing space for Maud to relive her past. This book is a unique reading experience and offers an effective insight into a mind that has been cluttered by the trappings of dementia. I recognised the frustrations of Maud’s daughter only too well but it was the confusion and blackouts of Maud that opened my eyes to the reality of the disease and created an emotive narrative from start to finish.

Elizabeth is Missing is exceptionally clever in merging several genres and still managing to hold a clear and interesting narrative – not a feat often mastered! The leading story is a mystery with historical, comedy, romance and drama added into the mix. However, unlike her leading protagonist, Healey’s narrative is driven, complex and emotive – and as far as muddled as can be.

4 star


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