“Elizabeth is missing!”
This thought comes to 82 year old Maud frequently. Sometimes she’ll have been thinking about something completely unrelated – the best place to grow marrows perhaps, who that strange woman is in her kitchen, or who moved her staircase. But suddenly, she’ll remember that she hasn’t seen her best friend for quite some time (although she isn’t really sure when exactly she last saw her) or she will find one of her own handwritten notes, reminding her of Elizabeth’s strange disappearance.
Maud’s daughter Helen doesn’t seem to be taking her concerns seriously, although Helen gets very serious about many of the other things that Maud does – like trying to cook for herself. And when she goes to the police, they already seem to know the story, and yet they also aren’t trying to find Elizabeth. They just tell her that she needs to stop contacting them – although Maud doesn’t remember having done so before.
Maud’s concern about Elizabeth and the changes ion her own life start to get confused and her mind is cast back to the years after WWII when her own sister Sukey went missing under mysterious circumstances. A mystery that was never solved.
This story has been so beautifully written. The care and the attention and the heart-break of ‘witnessing’ someone falling into dementia / Alzheimers is extremely carefully handled. Although you feel sorry for Maud, it’s never in a belittling way, and it makes me wonder whether the author has been close to someone that has been affected like this.
With Maud being such an unreliable witness, the two ‘disappearances’ are intriguing, as well as frustrating as you know that you are never getting the full story – just little snippets with allusions to more that you have to grab for yourself as clues.
Over the course of the book, Maud’s memory becomes increasingly worse – she can’t always remember the name of things – “The bed for sitting on” instead of “sofa” for example.
If you’re expecting an exciting thriller, this isn’t really the book for you. The real ‘thriller’ aspect comes far more towards the end of the book once we have been given all the clues about what has happened to both Sukey and Elizabeth.
The majority of the story is following Maud’s rambling consciousness, which in itself is fascinating. We, as the audience, read that she’s gone to make herself a cup of tea, and then wandered off, and then feels thirsty and wonders why she hasn’t had a cup of tea for so long, and then wanders back to the kitchen to find the kettle surprisingly warm. We see Maud’s memory loss even though she doesn’t.
Many people, like myself, will have witnessed a family member that has gone through this. It really is heart-breaking, especially when they don’t recognise you, as Maud occasionally finds with Helen and her granddaughter Katy.
There are echoes of Before I Go To Sleep and (the film) Memento in this, but it is truly unique. A fascinating book.
I actually listened to this as an audiobook, and I have to say that Anna Bentinck’s narration is absolutely spot on! It really, really adds something to the whole story – her characterisation is perfect. So, if you are an audiobook lover, this is certainly one to get!