Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: 1 January 2015
Format: Paperback, 304 pgs
So we have read enough of unreliable narrators of the mystery/thriller genre; but an unreliable narrator who's elderly and has dementia? I don't think so. At least not with this reader.
Elizabeth is Missing centers around an elderly woman named Maud Horsham and her dementia problem; and an unsolved seventy-year-old mystery which everyone has forgotten about except Maud. For one thing, Maud is adamant that her friend, Elizabeth, is missing. How could she when at times she couldn't even remember if she has drank her tea or even recognise her daughter, Helen? But, she does takes down notes to remind her things; what she should do and/or doesn't, and things she has discovered, etc etc. Surely these notes help, unless she got them mixed up.
What truly makes this literary mystery stands out is the narrator, Maud; who's a real unreliable narrator in her own rights. Unlike other unreliable narrators, Maud doesn't have a motive or an agenda and ironically that makes her tale more believing in a way, if you get what I mean.
Despite Maud's condition, I find her voice witty at times and even intelligent in some ways. I found her exchanges between Helen as well as her carer, Carla, entertaining although I could understand their frustrations for repeating themselves over and over. That said, within a few pages in I found myself warming up to her, and never mind that she is repeating things over and over. Yes, Maud has that effect on me and it was refreshing given that I'd been reading too many sad or vengeful narrators lately.
While this is not the kind of mystery that would blow you off in a huge way like a typical police procedural or a thriller will, Maud's tale and her determination would rub off on you the more you flipped through those pages. Aside from the mystery of Elizabeth's disappearance, Maud also recalls bits of her childhood memories (set in the 1940s; post WWII London) when her elder sister, Sukey, had gone missing. These memories intersect with Elizabeth's disappearance and I found the (writing) style to be very well done. This is one great literary fiction about loss as well as an interesting case study of the minds of the dementia patients.
I was both amazed and impressed that this fascinating story is the author's debut. She is definitely one author to watch for and I will be sure to look out for her future releases.