Lost in thought

Elizabeth Heathcote goes sleuthing for this month’s Psychologies Book Club, with Emma Healey’s award-winning debut Elizabeth Is Missing


Lost in thought

Maud knows something is wrong. Her friend Elizabeth is the only person she can be herself with these days, but there’s no trace of her at home. Where has she gone?

When Maud tells her daughter Helen and the carer who visits daily, they tell her to write a note to herself, and not to go out, and especially not to buy any more tinned peaches – the cupboard is already full of them. But Elizabeth is missing and Maud is determined to find out the truth.

Maud is elderly and has dementia, and this mystery novel, Elizabeth Is Missing (Penguin, £7.99), written in the first person, is an ambitious attempt to show us the world through her eyes. It turns out that the true mystery lies in Maud’s past, in a time of Second World War rationing and bombed-out houses, to which Maud’s mind is retreating.

Here, Maud is a child still, and loves to visit her older sister Sukey, who is married and lives a few streets away. Until one day, Sukey disappears…

If the thought of a novel about dementia seems depressing, don’t be put off. Emma Healey handles her material with wit and a big heart. Maud is a wilful and determined character, and the long-suffering Helen is as loving as she is irritated.

Vulnerable as any dementia sufferer is, the people Maud encounters are patient and kind. By the end I felt enlightened, rather than saddened.

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