Three Things About Elsie is a really good book. It’s a mystery. It’s a meditation on aging and how the aged are treated. It’s subtle, but still manages to smack you in the face in a way that you don’t realize you have been smacked….at first.
Florence, Jack, and Elise are residents of a home for the aging (nursing home) in England. They are fine until a mysterious new resident moves into the community – a resident that Florence swears has been dead for 60 years. But how could Ronnie Butler (aka Gabriel Price) be alive? He drowned. After he ran over his wife in his car.
The thing that makes this book so interesting is that Florence, from whose perspective most of the story is told, may or may not have dementia and may or may not be seeing what is really happening. Some of what Florence says makes no sense. Some of it makes too much sense. Florence relies on Elsie and Jack to help her remember. On top of the appearance of Ronnie Butler, Florence has been put on “probation” by the nursing home and is being evaluated for transfer to the dementia/Alzheimer’s home, to which she desperately doesn’t want to go. She thinks that Ronnie is responsible for ordering a bunch of pizzas, claiming to be her, or buying a cupboard full of cakes, when Florence swears she bought just one. Or moving the ceramic elephant on her mantle. All of these things make Florence look like she needs the dementia home. There are a couple of jaw-dropping plot twists that I honestly didn’t see coming. And like I said before, the book puts them out there in a subtle way that makes you have to re-read just to make sure you understood what you thought you read.
Other than being mildly unhappy with the ending, I really liked this book. It is a reminder that we place so much value on youth in this society that we forget what our elders can teach us. It is also a reminder that people, while their bodies may be failing (or even their minds), have a lot to offer. Joanna Cannon is a lovely writer. She is masterful at turning a phrase – and this book is full of quotable phrases and passages. It is almost lyrical the way it’s written. I truly enjoyed the writing as much as the story. I got hung up on some things that are clearly British and I had to Google, but that isn’t even a fault because I learned. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s a mystery, but it’s also a meditation on getting old and society’s disregard for the elderly. It’s just a well-written story with characters you won’t soon forget.
I won this book from Goodreads and received no other compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.