Emma Healey’s debut novel is the third and last one I read during my NZ travels. It has nothing to do with New Zealand, but still caught my eye in a bookstore in Taupo. With praise such as “Will stir and shake you” by Emma Donoghue or “Outstanding” by the Sunday Times on the front cover, expectations are high. And before reviewing Elizabeth is Missing, I have to admit that it really is a book that I could not put down.
The novel immerges into the life of Maud, an elderly british woman who is very forgetful. She makes a cup of tea and forgets to drink it (there is an accumulation of at least 5 cold cups of tea on her cupboard everyday) and goes out shopping and forgets why she went (although she writes a lot of notes to herself). She sometimes doesn’t recognize her home or forgets about her daughter Helen. But she can’t be argued out of the thought that her friend Elizabeth went missing and tries to solve the mystery – despite all her oblivion. At the same time, she remembers fragments from another mystery that goes back to the postwar years, when her sister Suki disappeared.
The narrative switches between the present and the memories of her childhood which Maud remembers in great detail. As a reader, it is sometimes difficult to keep track of all the information given but at the same time, it is difficult to not puzzle about Elizabeth’s and Suki’s fate. Additionally, Maud is such a likable grandmother that I often felt the urge to help and support her in her struggle. As a first-person narrator, she seemed very close to me. Rosmaund Urwin hits the mark with her description in the Standard: Elizabeth is Missing is a tender but not sentimental book — charming but never cloying. And in Maud, Healey has found a fascinating voice: a heroine suffering from memory loss who is herself hard to forget.
Helen, Maud’s daughter gives her best to support her mother and to not get annoyed by her forgetfulness. She comes by every day, often times with cake. Maud is a little choosey when it comes to cakes, but I am pretty sure that she would like Becky’s Brownies. I got the recipe from a good friend of mine and it never fails to make me happy. Of course, it is not the healthiest dessert out there, but who cares. You don’t need a lot of ingredients and it is very easy, I hope you give it a try.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a pot. Preheat the oven (175 degrees celsius). Mix the eggs, sugar and vanilla sugar in a bowl. Add the chocolate-butter. Add the flour and salt and stir. Put it into a small cakepan and put into oven, about 20 minutes. Best enjoyed while still hot!
Emma Healey: Elizabeth is Missing