Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

Reviewer : Gillian Hamer, author of The Charter, Closure, Complicit, Crimson Shore, False Lights & Sacred Lake. (

What we thought: I have been looking forward to this book since its release, having adored the debut novel from Joanna Cannon – The Trouble with Goats and Sheep. And I’m pleased to say this didn’t disappoint! I actually wiped away a tear as I turned the final page and said goodbye to a collection of wonderful characters.

From a teenage world of the 1970’s in the first novel from this author, here we’re taken to Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly and introduced into the life of some of the inhabitants, including our lead protagonist 84-year-old Florence - and her lifelong best friend Elsie.

This book makes the reader work, and that’s no bad thing. In one thread, Florence is lying alone, having had a fall in her flat, and the author cleverly uses this to introduce flashbacks and info needed to move the story along. In others, there’s a degree of confusion as Florence’s episodes of dementia muddy the water between reality and fiction. But as ever, she has her best friend Elsie at her side to hold her hand, calm down and say the right thing.

There’s also a degree of mystery when a strange man arrives at Cherry Tree, and his appearance rocks Florence to her roots. If this is the person she thinks it is, then he drowned over fifty years ago. And when odd things begin to happen to Florence – including a fire in her flat and a curious incident with Battenberg cakes – she knows some of her own secrets have come back to haunt her.

There is everything in this book; mystery, intrigue, compassion, humour and empathy. The characters are superb, the pace handled with a delicate balance, and the voice and tone are a lesson in the craft of writing. By the time you get to the end you will have experienced every emotion known to human kind.

And if you’re anything like me, you’ll be pondering the third thing about Elsie for a long time to come.

You’ll enjoy this if you like : Kate Hamer, Gail Honeyman, Celia Imrie.

Avoid if you don’t like : Dementia and the strength of the human spirit.

Ideal accompaniments: Fish and chips with extra salt and vinegar and a can of Dr Pepper.

Genre : Contemporary.

Available on Amazon

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