Book Review: “Three Things About Elsie”

Three Things About Elsie

I’ve been reading two books that have been on my “to be read” list for a while: “Homegoing”, by Yaa Gyasi, and “Three Things About Elsie”, by Joanna Cannon.

Getting through that list is one of the positive things to come out of lockdown!

In “Three Things About Elsie”, 84-year-old Florence Claybourne has fallen in her room at the Cherry Tree Home For The Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, we hear the story of how Florence has arrived at this point in her life.

We learn that a charming new resident, Gabriel Price, has recently moved into the home, and Florence is stunned. Gabriel bears a striking resemblance to a man she once knew. A man she was certain had drowned many years ago . . .

But it can’t be him, surely. Can it?

Together with fellow resident, Jack, Florence sets out to find out the truth behind this man’s circumstances. Simultaneously she is attempting to avoid being sent to a more secure facility, Greenbank, at all costs.

Overwhelmingly upbeat

With a gentle tone, this book doesn’t shy away from the challenges Florence faces, but they’re not challenges she faces alone.

Alongside patient, gentle Jack and best friend Elsie, Florence fights to regain the memories that could help unlock the mystery of who Gabriel Price really is.

Elsie is the only person who has ever called Florence “Flo”.

There are another three things Florence would like us to know about Elsie: the first is that she’s Florence’s best friend.

The second is that she always knows what to say to make Florence feel better.

And the third? We must wait until the book’s conclusion to find out. This is the story of Elsie, and of Florence, and of the way each person shapes the lives of everyone around them, and how even a seemingly uneventful life can be extraordinary in its own way.

This book is absolutely lovely, a gentle antidote to the turmoil that’s presently around us.

It’s a really enjoyable read, and although it deals with secrets and love, betrayal and sadness, it’s overwhelmingly upbeat. A refreshing celebration of life and of those we love.

Calm of mind

It’s poignant, in that Florence is looking back on the life she’s lived, with its ups and downs, joys and imperfections. And you’re aware that most of the people in Florence’s story have gone before her.

Now Florence seems to me to be yearning to be finally, in Milton’s words, “calm of mind, all passion spent”. At peace with her past.

Some books make you feel better for having read them, and more appreciative of life and of those you love. And this is one of them. Highly recommended.

As we were in lockdown at the time of writing, I bought my copy from A Great Read, for £6.99.

This included free delivery. What a great service!

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Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!