Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
Publisher: The Borough Press
Publishing Date: 11th January 2018
Source: Received from publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!
Number of pages: 464
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
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 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.
In this story – that is going to break your heart, btw – our main character Elsie is a 84 years old who lives at Cherry Tree (beautiful name, even though there are no cherry tries there), a sheltered accommodation. She spends her days with her friends Elsie, whom she knows for many, many years, and Jack. Florence is lovely and you just can’t help but fell in love with her a little. There is still spirit to her and she’s not an easiest resident of the home, she requires answers to her questions and is not easily satisfied. She just wants to live – I loved her no – nonsense approach. When a new resident arrives, Gabriel Price, she starts to believe she knows him but under a different name – is she right, and is in danger now? Or did she forget? Together with Florence, Elsie and Jack we set out on an incredible journey of looking for the truth, journey full of secrets, lies, abuse and mysteries, but also full of antics the three get up to.
“Three Things About Elsie” is a very special story about some very special characters that will stay in your heart for long. I actually immediately fell in love with Florence and Elsie, it was so easy to imagine them both sitting at the window and gossiping about all the other residents. They were jumping out of the pages of this book and they felt so true to life. Also, the background characters, such as Miss Ambrose or Handy Simon were incredibly well developed and had their own voices and stories that were so very touching, and really, they made the story feel more whole – I really hope you know what I mean here. So we don’t only get Florence’s point of view but also we get to know her life through other characters’ eyes. Elsie’s character is also incredibly likeable. She’s Florence’s best friend and it is Elsie who knows how Florence ticks best and how to make her feel better. Her words are the most memorable to Florence and she always asks what Elsie would do or say. It is Elsie who helps her, who finds all the positive things and who helps her to navigate through the minefield of losing memory. Their friendship was so beautiful and pure.
This story offered some curves that I really didn’t expect. I was reading a lovely, touching story about Florence, Elsie and Jack and then the author has thrown some so unexpected twists and the story went in totally different direction to the one I was expecting – which is just brilliant, I love to be surprised – and in the end it turned out to be a little of mystery, a little of memories, with very realistic characters. I also never could say what is real, is Florence right or is it really her dementia speaking, and the final reveals just took my breath away.
Joanna Cannon is a very, very talented author. I haven’t read her debut novel yet, it is still on my kindle, but her turns of phrases, the way she constructs the dialogues, the vividness of descriptions, the bringing the characters to life and the complex storyline speak for themselves. This book, “Three Things About Elsie”, is this kind of a story that is getting better with every page turned and it leaves you thinking and reflecting on what you’ve just read. It is a funny and sad, sentimental and it just tugs at the heart – strings. The author writes in such a gentle way, her words are full of sympathy, heart and understanding. They make us laugh and cry and think and reflect. And I can’t not mention it but the cover of the book is absolutely gorgeous, and it is also the perfect reflection of the story – you’ll see for yourself when you read the book.
Joanna Cannon explores friendship in her book, people that we hold dear, and indicates how important they are to us, and how important it is to not to lose our trust. Altogether, it was a beautiful, sensitive book, full of many poignant moments. And I didn’t guess the third thing about Elsie. It took me totally by surprise and made me cry like a crocodile. Highly, highly recommended!