Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Elizabeth is Missing is a book I have done a great disservice to. I started reading it in 2017 on a trip to Geneva, and was at least two thirds of the way through it. When I returned, I put it down and for a genuinely unknown reason, didn’t pick it up again until March 2019.

I’ve got previous form for putting books down and not finishing them. If I don’t return to a book within two weeks there’s a strong chance that I’ll never go back to it. Unfinished reads include Lord of the Rings, Charlotte Gray, A Room with a View and A Farewell to Arms. I am seeking to rectify all of these, and so I started with Elizabeth is Missing as the most recent.

Unlike the others which I will have to start completely fresh, I could remember the whole of the story thus far and had left my book mark in place. As soon as I began reading again, I instantly thought, why did I ever stop? It is such a wonderful book, and so well written.

There are dual missing person stories set decades apart that run in parallel. Attempting to solve these cases is Maud, who has dementia. As the story progresses, so does Maud’s disease, which is what makes this book so brilliant.

I think Emma is an incredible writer to capture the unrelenting progressive symptoms of dementia and be able to structure it into a novel. It takes remarkable skill to write about something that in its very nature is unstructured and unravelling, and Maud is the perfect unreliable narrator. The story threads fragment and merge, mirroring the confusion and breakdown in Maud’s memory.

It is a difficult read in the sense that you know Maud cannot get better, but it is worth it to see the story through to its conclusion. I am sorry it took me so long to get there, and have recommended this book countless times to others in a bid to make amends.