Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Three Things About Elsie

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
Scribner: 8/7/18
eBook review copy; 384 pages
ISBN-13: 9781501187384

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 more explaining."

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 observations.

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).

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Scribner.

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