When Joanna Cannon’s debut novel, The Trouble With Goats And Sheep was published back in 2015, it quickly became one of my favourite reads of the year. So the moment I heard about Three Things About Elsie, I was desperate to get my hands on a copy! And fortunately I was privileged enough to receive a proof copy ahead of its publication later this week, and I chose it as my first read of 2018, as it was one of my most anticipated read of this year.
In Three Things About Elsie, we meet 84-year-old Florence who lives in the Cherry Tree Home for the elderly. We are also introduced to her lifelong friend Elsie, and as the title suggests there are three things to know about Elsie, one of which is a little difficult to explain. Florence is beginning to find things difficult to remember, and when we first meet her we see that she has fallen in her flat, awaiting rescue. This gives her opportunity to reflect on her life and in particular a past secret which threatens to emerge. As with The Trouble Of Goats And Sheep, there is a element of mystery to this story as we uncover the secrets from Florence’s past, but in Florence’s story there is the added complexity of her deteriorating health. When a new resident arrives at Cherry Tree, he bears a striking resemblance to someone else entirely, someone who Florence thought had gone from her life for good. But how can that be the case, when the man Florence thinks she sees died sixty years ago? And if Florence cannot piece everything together, how will anyone else believe her?
I love Joanna Cannon’s writing and as with her debut it took me no time at all to get into the story and I quickly warmed to the characters. I really enjoyed learning about Florence and Elsie who with the help of another resident, Jack, try to get to the truth about the care homes charming new resident. One of the key themes throughout is the friendship between Florence and Elsie and the adventures they shared before heading to Cherry Tree to live out their twilight years. I adored Florence’s observations of the world around her, and her perspective of growing old and watching people change, as she tries to keep hold of her memories, memories which can be pieced together to reveal the truth from the past. As well as Florence we also see events from the perspective of some of the Cherry Tree staff including resident handy man Simon and second in command Miss Ambrose as they try to keep Florence and her companions in check. This book is so beautifully written, there were countless passages of writing that were perfectly formed with words to savour. This was a book that made me smile, and one that made me feel a little emotional. It captures the strength of relationships that last for a lifetime, and the ups and downs of growing older, looking back on our lives and what mark we have left on the world, no matter how small. And in the case of Florence, we meet a character who is sure to stay in the hearts of many a reader.
I was very excited about reading Three Things About Elsie, and it was a book that exceeded my expectations. It is a beautifully written story in which we meet loveable characters and follow them on a journey to look back at their past, and their secrets. Three Things About Elsie is to be published on 11th January 2018 by Borough Press, with thanks to Ann Bissell and Borough Press for providing a copy for review.