Three Things About Elsie

by Joanna Cannon
Three Things About Elsie
by Joanna Cannon

Florence has fallen over. She's lying on the floor of her flat in a residential home, hoping for someone to find her. While she waits, she thinks back on the events, the days, the weeks and the years that have led to her present predicament. And through all of that, she thinks of Elsie.

Elsie is her best friend. Elsie always knows the right thing to say, to make Florence feel better. And there's a third thing, something else we need to know about Elsie...but Florence never seems to get round to telling us what this is.

Florence has been living in her flat quite happily but is currently under threat of being moved to the care home nearby. The staff at the Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly think that Florence is losing her memory.

Florence is determined not to leave her flat but can't deny that strange things have been happening - she can't remember moving an ornament from its usual position, a cupboard is full of Battenberg cakes she can't remember buying, and the iron was left on. But these incidents only started happening when a new resident arrived at the home. His name is Gabriel but Florence is convinced he's an unpleasant character from her past - Ronnie Butler. But Ronnie died many years ago. 

This is an extraordinary book. It starts out as a gentle and charming ramble around an old people's home, meeting the characters and discovering their foibles, friendships and frustrations.

As the book goes on, as Florence continues to lie on the floor, we find out that things really aren't as innocent and uneventful as they seem.

Little by little we find out more about Florence and Elsie growing up together. We learn about Ronnie Butler and his similarities to Gabriel. And eventually we uncover a shocking and tragic incident, leaving the reader feeling unsettled and troubled.

How easy it is to make assumptions about a life. But we all have a story to tell. We all have incidents in our past. And through Florence we learn "there is so much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done" and "even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo".

I loved this book and am looking for an excuse to read it again, very soon! 

Review date: October 2017