About the Book
There are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.
84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?
From the author of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP, this book will teach you many things, but here are three of them:
1) The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
2) There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
3) Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo.
Firstly I have to apologise for the fact that I read and wrote my review for Three Things about Elsie way back in January and I was absolutely certain that I’d published it on my blog. In doing some sorting out this week I discovered that it had gone back into my drafts folder. January is a tough month for me due to it being the anniversary of my mum’s death and I just hadn’t realised that WordPress had messed up. Anyway, here (finally) is my review for the wonderful Three Things about Elsie!
I’m a huge fan of Joanna Cannon’s writing so when the publicist for Three Things about Elsie offered to send me a copy I immediately said yes! I didn’t read it straight away because it felt like a book to be saved for the right moment, and I was right. It’s been near impossible to write this review for two reasons: the first being that I loved it so much and I just don’t have enough superlatives to use, and the second is that I feel like the novel is now interwoven with my own emotions.
The novel opens with Florence having had a fall in her flat within the care home that she lives and she’s waiting for someone to come and help her. As she’s waiting she begins to think about her friend Elsie, and a new resident to the home and her mind goes back and forth in time as she mulls over what might be going on. Florence has started to be a bit more forgetful and the past and present begin to merge in her mind so she has to try and untangle the mystery and to work out if there is danger to be feared from the new resident. Florence is such a great character; she is so real and I was absorbed in her story from the very beginning.
I started reading Three Things about Elsie at the weekend and I fell in love with the novel in the first chapter. A few chapters in and I’d already had a little cry. I knew this book was going to be special. I deliberately read it slowly because Joanna Cannon has a wonderful ability to perfectly capture the essence of people, to make you feel like you’re reading about real people. The way she gets turns of phrase so exactly right warms my heart.
Monday was the anniversary of my mum’s death and I knew that combined with Florence’s story that this novel might be too much, and yet I was drawn to continue reading. I sobbed through the final few chapters of this book, it completely and utterly broke my heart. And yet as I turned the very last page it was all the beauty in the book that came to the fore in my mind, it was all the paragraphs that made me smile and remember. It feels like this book climbed inside my heart and it gave me real solace over a weekend full of such sad memories.
Florence is a wonderful character, I’m sure that anyone reading this book will see elements of their own loved ones in her. There were moments where she reminded me of my lovely nan, who died before old age took anything away from her. The idea of Florence lying on the floor after falling made me think of my Grandma, whose memory is beginning to get a little muddled and who has had a couple of horrible falls. The way Florence holds the people she can remember so dear to her made me think of my mum, who when her cancer spread to her brain began to speak as if she were still in her childhood home with her mum and sisters. More than these things though it spoke to me because whilst I’m not elderly I am disabled and I have had horrendous falls and been stuck on the floor until someone could come and help me. I try to keep my phone on me at all times so that I can ring my husband but occasionally I’ve forgotten it and I can’t express how frightening it is to be lying on the floor unable to get up. Joanna Cannon captures this fear, and later the resignation so perfectly that at times it was like she was expressing my own thoughts.
There is a sense of loneliness in this novel that I wasn’t expecting. It hovers around the edge of the story but it’s definitely there. Older people like Florence, and vulnerable people, and people like me can so easily disappear to the edges of our own lives, and to the very, very edge of other people’s lives. There can be people around but many of them no longer see you as who you feel you still are. The outside of you might look older, or more disabled, but the inside is still the same. I felt such an affinity with this aspect of the book, and it makes me want to cry now writing about it and yet the sensitivity of the writing makes this a book that I know I will go back to time and again when I need to be reminded of the Handy Simons of this world.
Three Things about Elsie is an incredible novel; it will break your heart but it will also heal it. It will give you solace and smiles; and it will make you hold your loved ones, the people who still see you, a bit tighter. Without a shadow of a doubt this book will be in my favourite books of 2018 and I urge you to go buy a copy now, you won’t regret it!
I was sent a copy of this book by the publicist. All thoughts are my own.
Three Things about Elsie is out now and available here.
About the Author
Joanna Cannon is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling debut novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, which has sold over 250,000 copies in the UK alone and has been published in 15 countries. The novel was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize, shortlisted for The Bookseller Industry Awards 2017 and won the 2016 BAMB Reader Award. Joanna has been interviewed in The Guardian, The Observer, The Sunday Times, The Times, and Good Housekeepingmagazine, and her writing has appeared in the Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail, and the Guardian, amongst others. She has appeared on BBC Breakfast, BBC News Channel’s Meet the Author, interviewed on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 5, and is a regular at literary festivals across the country including Edinburgh and Cheltenham. Joanna left school at fifteen with one O-level and worked her way through many different jobs – barmaid, kennel maid, pizza delivery expert – before returning to school in her thirties and qualifying as a doctor. Her work as a psychiatrist and interest in people on the fringes of society continue to inspire her writing, and Joanna currently volunteers for Arts for Health, an organisation bringing creative arts to NHS staff and patients. Joanna Cannon’s second novel Three Things About Elsie is published in January 2018 and explores memory, friendship and old age. She lives in the Peak District with her family and her dog.