Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
eBook review copy; 384 pages
Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon is a very highly recommended mystery set in a home for the elderly.
"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 bit
Eighty-four-year-old Florence Claybourne and Elsie have been best
friends their whole lives. Now they are both at Cherry Tree, an assisted
living facility for the elderly. The novel opens after Florence has
fallen in her flat and is waiting for someone to find her and help.
While lying on the floor, she thinks about a secret from the past and
reexamines her life. Part of her thoughts turn to recent events,
including the new resident who may not be who he claims to be and may,
in fact, be someone from her past who is out to get her now.
The main narrator is Florence, but the narrative perspective
occasionally shifts to Miss Ambrose, an administrator at Cherry Tree,
and Simon, the handyman. Florence is an unreliable narrator, although
it may be due to her age, because she just can't remember all the facts.
Her friend Elsie encourages her to concentrate and try to remember all
the facts. Elsie is a constant, positive and encouraging friend to
Florence. Florence can be opinionated and cantankerous as she talks to
others, walks the readers through her daily movements at Cherry Tree,
and tells the story of her past. The suspense builds as it appears
someone is trying to make Florence look senile and make others doubt her
The quality of the writing is excellent. The narrative moves at a steady
pace, although the pace seems to pick up once the mystery takes an
ominous turn. I appreciate the way facts are revealed as Florence is
encouraged by Elsie to slowly prod her memory to recall events from long
ago. There are some coincidences that may seem unlikely, but the longer
you live, the more often it appears that surprising coincidences seem
to happen. I also like the characters Cannon has created in Three Things About Elsie. The
third thing about Elsie is remembered/answered, but not until late in
the novel (although some readers may guess it earlier).
My review copy was courtesy of Scribner.