Elizabeth is Missing follows eighty-two year old Maud as she struggles to find out what has happened to her friend Elizabeth. The reason she struggles is because Maud has dementia and her memory increasingly fails her, making everyday life a confusing muddle. Elizabeth’s apparent disappearance also brings that of her beloved older sister, Sukey, seventy years earlier into Maud’s mind.
I loved this book. It somehow manages to combine sadness, gentle humour and mystery to create a touching, compelling story. Maud’s narration, perfectly clear when recollecting her post-war childhood and the devastating loss of her sister but with a higgledy-piggledy grasp on the present, makes a fascinating mix. As the reader manages to figure out both what has happened to Elizabeth and Sukey, we feel frustrated both by Maud and on her behalf, and also huge sympathy for her long-suffering daughter Helen.
I can vouch for the fact that that this is an extremely accurate picture of what happens to so many elderly people, as I have one grandmother with very advanced Alzheimer’s and another who is starting to show many of the signs. So many of the incidents and traits were familiar; the repeated buying of things they don’t need (in Maud’s case tinned peaches), the paranoia and suspicion, the wandering and just how difficult it is for those around them.
This is a highly accomplished and original debut novel, completely deserving of 5 stars.