Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

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Published: 26th July 2018
Publisher: The Borough Press
Pages: 496


84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, she considers the charming new resident who looks exactly like a man she once knew – a man who died sixty years ago. His arrival has stirred distant memories she and Elsie thought they’d laid to rest. Lying prone in the front room, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light…


Florence and Elsie have been best friends since they can remember; living in each other’s pockets, attending school dances together, protecting one another, working in the factory side by side and now, they’re both in the same retirement home waiting for that dreaded day to come. I immediately warmed to Florence; her feisty personality, knowing her own mind and yet, readers will be able to tell that she is struggling to come to terms with slowing down. Life at Cherry Tree isn’t as plain sailing as Florence would like it to be and as she takes a fall in her flat with nobody around to help, she reflects upon her life: her friendship with Elsie, the school dance, the death of Beryl and why Ronnie Butler is back from the dead.

“Everyone’s life has a secret, something they never talk about. Everyone has words they keep to themselves. It’s what you do with your secret that really matters.”

The plot mainly focuses on a new face at Cherry Tree or in Florence’s case: a very familiar face who was supposedly dead. As ornaments keep being moved in her flat, Florence is convinced that Ronnie Butler is up to no good and so, she teams up with Elsie and Jack (a very sweet resident) to uncover the truth about the night of Beryl’s death and who the mystery person with the red scarf is. Joanna’s writing style is absolutely incredible – the characters are full of life (metaphorically speaking), everyone has a role to play, including the small ones, the narrative flows from chapter to chapter and the plot is captivating. Each time the readers were taken back to Florence, lying on her floor, it was a little bit heart breaking when she kept imagining who would be the one to find her and every single person she thought of, she imagined them being with her in the ambulance. Florence may not enjoy being at Cherry Tree and having to live by certain rules but it was heart warming to know that she was truly looked after.

“Sometimes, you feel a memory before you see it. Even though your eyes can’t quite find it, you can smell it, taste it and hear it sharing to you from the back of your mind.”

Once I reached the last quarter of the book, the pace of the plot quickened as Florence began to remember more of what happened in the past. The ending was an emotional one and yet, Joanna had carefully planted clues throughout the plot and in reality, it was a heart warming idea which I think has possibly happened in real life. The overall topic of dementia is one very close to my heart and even though I found myself to be a little emotional throughout the book, Florence was a joy to read about. Granted, she was elderly and suffering with memory loss but she was a strong woman and Joanna wrote her with such personality.



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