My book club read Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey last month. It reminded me somewhat of Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime. This time the protagonist is not an autistic teenager but an elderly woman with dementia. It’s not a book to read lightly and with various medical issues to do with friends and relations, it was not a book I could read with much enjoyment. However, this is a first novel which leaves me in awe of the author. I can only imagine that she had a huge plan above her desk where she plotted every scene. This is a woman, Maud, whose memory is shot to pieces, whose mind is playing all kind of tricks, where the people around her won’t listen. The author’s understanding of the disease showed both compassion and huge insight.
One of my book club members, mentioned that people with dementia often focus on an unresolved issue in their lives. In this case, Maud’s sister disappeared not long after the war and Maud aches to know what happened. At the same time, Elizabeth, her friend is not living in her house. What’s happened to her?
To me, while the book darts back and forth between Mau’s youth and her old age, the insight into a world where nothing makes sense anymore, where memory is as transient as a record on repeat play, is particularly poignant. You can understand the rage as we no longer go gently into that good night. This book should be read.