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  • Writer's picturePaul Burston

Three Things About Elsie

84 year-old Florence has fallen on the floor in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, her mind wanders. 

She thinks about her friend Elsie, who she’s known for over 60 years. She thinks about the times they’ve spent together, before coming to the home and since arriving here. 

And she thinks about a more recent arrival, a man Florence recognises but who died 60 years ago. What is he doing here? And why is everyone so convinced that his name is Gabriel Price when Florence knows him as Billy Butler?

Joanna Cannon’s latest novel is deceptively simple - an elderly woman with dementia thinks she sees someone she knows and slowly recalls a traumatic event from a long time ago. But rather like Emma Healey’s recent novel Elizabeth Is Missing, this is about far more than that. 

It’s about friendship and how we see ourselves through the eyes of others. It’s about human frailty and the way elderly people are treated in a society obsessed with youth and beauty. And it’s about the lies we tell - to ourselves and others. Is it a crime novel? Yes, insofar as a number of crimes are committed. 

The writing is shot through with humour. Some scenes made me laugh out loud. But deep down this is a profoundly moving book, with a cast of eccentric but believable characters and a huge amount of heart. I loved it.  

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