REVIEW: Elizabeth Is Missing

Elizabeth Is Missing is a wonderfully bizarre thing. Not only has Emma Healey delivered an alluring mystery, but a sincere of depiction of family life in the face of illness. Our 84-year-old narrator, Maud, who's, ironically, not to be forgotten, suffers from dementia (a theme Healey deals with in a remarkably realistic and honest manner). And yet, despite Maud's inability to remember simple daily tasks, the one thing she remembers is something everybody else has forgotten: the answer to a seventy-year-old crime case.

Author: Emma Healey | Publisher: Penguin UK | Pages: 275 | Source: Gifted |

A mystery, an unsolved crime and one of the most unforgettable characters since Mark Haddon's Christopher. Meet Maud…

'Elizabeth is missing' reads the note in Maud's pocket in her own handwriting, and the one on the wall.

Maud's been getting forgetful. She keeps buying peach slices when she has a cupboard full, forgets to drink the cups of tea she's made and writes notes to remind herself of things. But Maud is determined to discover what has happened to her friend, Elizabeth, and what it has to do with the unsolved disappearance of her sister Sukey, years back, just after the war.

MY THOUGHTS: If you've ever known anybody who has dementia, you'll be shocked by how frightfully realistic Maud's narrative is. And not only this, but Healey depicts the complex relationships Maud holds with her family and friends (notably her daughter, her granddaughter and her carer) with complete sincerity. Even without the mystery aspect, ELIZABETH IS MISSING could succeed alone in its realism and gritty study of human relations.

The mystery itself is a fascinating one, told through alternation between Maud as she is now, and Maud as she was in her youth. The 84-year-old Maud is convinced of her friend Elizabeth's disappearance, whilst the young Maud is dealing with the disappearance of her sister Sukey. These stories run hand-in-hand, and, unlike many other reviewers, I really loved the disjointed switches between the two – it's almost as if this is to echo the confusion of Maud's mind and memories.

Perhaps my favourite detail of this novel is that, more than anything, it's about a personal conflict. Maud isn't solving the crime for the sake of solving a crime – heck, she doesn't even know what's happening half of the time. Instead, what Healey presents is far more complex and enthralling. What if your mind is the only thing that prevents you from figuring out the one thing you want to know? That's exactly Maud's predicament.

The only flaw I can find within in this novel is that, occasionally, confusion can be found – especially when it comes to tying together all the loose ends.

But, overall, darkly humoured, well-plotted and told through an accurate and compelling narrative, Elizabeth Is Missing is nothing short of fantastic. I truly recommend.

Favourite Quotations:    
“The sun’s in my eyes and it’s difficult to see. The shape of her is distorted by the light, circles of her silhouette removed as if by a pastry cutter.” 
“But it’s not true. I forget things—I know that—but I’m not mad. Not yet. And I’m sick of being treated as if I am. I’m tired of the sympathetic smiles and the little pats people give you when you get things confused, and I’m bloody fed up with everyone deferring to Helen rather than listening to what I have to say.” 
in One Word?
There was something strangely captivating about the narrative. The tale itself was powerful and irresistible, and I found myself both gripped and moved by this 82-year-old's battle against her own mind. It's a thoroughly compelling read.


  1. My sister just got this for her birthday so I think I'll definitely give it a go at some point seeing as you liked it. It seems to be an interesting enough concept so hopefully I'll enjoy it.


  2. This certainly does sound like a compelling read. I'm intrigued by the way the two narratives interact with each - I'd like to see how they further the storyline yet still manage to reflect Maud's jumbled thoughts.

    Great review!

    1. Thank you Rachel! It's wonderful how the timelines link together. :)

  3. I've been seeing a lot of wonderful comments about this book, it truly does sound compelling!

    1. It has had such a positive response! It truly is wonderful.

  4. I've heard a bit about this book but not much. I'm so happy you did a post on it. Now I really want to read it.
    Thanks for posting.


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