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Thursday, 14 December 2017

Three Things About Elsie @JoannaCannon

About Three Things About Elsie

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.

My review of Three Things About Elsie

Three Things About Elsie is such a beautiful book to read, absolutely beautiful. I was instantly drawn to the book by its attractive cover that depicts Battenberg. This in itself brought a lump to my throat, memories flooding in of my nana who loved Battenberg cake. But what this cover does is that it evokes feelings, emotions, and that is exactly what the book does. At times it is very funny, and others it made me weep. It's about the older generation, of how the younger generation interact with them, and of how the two worlds collide. It is a book about memories, of finding who we are, and ultimately, where we are now. This book is so many things, and all are wonderful to read.

The book revolves around Florence, whom we first meet while she is lying on the floor, in her flat in Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. From the moment I met Florence I wanted to know her story. Why she had fallen and who would come and help her. Her voice is so distinctive, it felt like she was really talking to me. I wanted to be her friend, and I wanted to reach into the book and help her.

Jo Canon writes with such empathy and insight that it made me want to cry. I understood completely what it was like for Florence, living in this environment, with other people trying to dictate her day, and what she was feeling. The writing is beautiful, yet straightforward, as Florence is a straight talker and says exactly what is on her mind, and I loved her for this.

As with all great novels there is a wonderful supporting cast. We have Elsie, Florence's friend from when they were young girls, and the narrative constantly goes backwards and forwards in time, sharing these early days with us, and these passages were simply a delight to read. We then have Jack, a man whom she befriends in the care home, and who helps Florence in her quest to discover the true identity of the charming new resident. The most likeable character for me (apart from Florence) as that of Handy Simon. A man who cares deeply about the residents but who finds it difficult to communicate his thoughts and feelings. I really liked Simon, I warmed to him immediately and wondered if he was on the autistic spectrum.

This book highlights the fact that the nursing and medical professions often 'medicalise' older patients, in that they do not see the actual person, but rather a set of symptoms. Florence's story so eloquently and gently explains that she is so much more than the old lady that many younger people see. She has lived an exciting life. Has loved, had friends and has been a young woman, a young woman with hopes and dreams.

Three Things About Elsie is a beautifully written book about the older generation, about history, and about friendship. It was so refreshing to read a book from an older person's point of view that was not over sentimental, but simply told a story from their point of view. It is warm, witty and at times heart breaking, but above all a hugely enjoyable read. Florence will, I feel, stay with me for a very long time.

With thanks to the publisher and NetGaley for an Advanced Reader Copy.

Three Things About Elsie is published on 11th Jan 2018 by Borough Press. It can be found on Amazon here.

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