Review: Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

9780008196912What I Thought:

Aside from having a cover depicting cake (sold!) I had high hopes for this book anyway, having read (and loved) The Trouble with Goats and Sheep just a year earlier. In the same way that its predecessor did, Three Things About Elsie gently invited me in by way of a character whose story I immediately wanted to know more about, and whose side I walked by until the final page.

Florence, narrator for most of the book, is 84 years old and living in Cherry Tree home for the elderly with her best friend from childhood, Elsie. Flo is losing her memory and finds it hard to remember the simplest things sometimes,  and being part-narrated by two members of staff from Cherry Tree this also helps us to see how overlooked the elderly become, almost to the point of dehumanisation. There are times in the book when I had to pause and think. One example of this is when Flo is asked about another resident, Mrs. Honeyman, and whether she has lost someone: “only who she used to be” replies Flo.

What I didn’t realise this book would also be, was a mystery. A new resident moves into Cherry Tree; someone whom Flo recognises from her past and someone who causes her distress. Having Flo as our protagonist adds a whole extra level to solving the mystery, as she is an unintentionally unreliable narrator. As Flo picks away at the threads of her memory, supported by Elsie and another resident, Jack, we are able to put together pieces of the puzzle, but only at the same time as Flo, meaning that there are questions, doubts and hold-ups along the way.

Verdict:

Poignant, tender, delightful. A book about friendship, hope and about how our lives can touch others in such a small way but ultimately have the biggest impact. A wonderful read.

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