Emma Healey - Elizabeth is Missing (4 stars)

A warm, funny and sometimes truly chilling tale of dementia from a promising storyteller

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Emma Healey - Elizabeth is Missing

82-year-old Maud has dementia – and it's progressing fast. So when her friend Elizabeth goes missing, she does everything she can to remember that she has to find her. But in searching for Elizabeth, she uncovers buried memories from her girlhood, leading her to a much older and darker mystery: the unexplained disappearance of her sister Sukey in 1946.

Emma Healey's debut – subject to a fierce bidding war between publishers last year – is a gripping story, part thriller, part family drama. Headlines may warn of the oncoming dementia epidemic but Healey takes us right to the heart of the condition, the book's sometimes frustratingly stop-start pace emulating the looping actions of Maud's daily life. Through her repetitive interchanges, we see her daughter's simultaneous love and exasperation, and the careless way that strangers react to her illness.

Healey balances this social commentary and the unfolding historic mystery with ease, and the sophisticated nuance of her characters makes up for the handful of overwritten paragraphs. Elizabeth is Missing is a lovely debut: a warm, funny and sometimes truly chilling tale from a promising storyteller.

Published by Viking on Thu 5 Jun.

Emma Healey: Talk

The author discusses her debut novel Elizabeth Is Missing.

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