January's Reading List
Well I say January's list, it's more likely to be the next few months I think. Never mind, I've had a splurge this month to rid the January blues. I made my selection based on friends and fellow writers recommendations, and not least, chancing a book at random ~ because I liked the look of it after having a peak inside. I always open a book in the middle and read a little to see if I might enjoy. My first instincts are usually right; if I like a taste of the middle the chances I will enjoy the book as a whole.
As usual, there are no spoilers contained in my reviews.
My first book of the year is Joanna Cannon's Three Things About Elsie.
Last summer I had read Joanna's The Trouble With Goats and Sheep, told from a child's point of view and set in the scorching hot summer of 1976 (see July / August Read & Reviews) and I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I was so looking forward to reading Joanna's next novel, Three Things About Elsie, and I wasn't disappointed.
It is refreshing to read a story that is being told from an older person's point of view ~ Florence and her lifetime friend, Elsie. The story is set in a sheltered housing accommodation, Cherry Tree Home. The themes of memory and individual perspectives on the past, and lifelong friendships, are skilfully marked in the twists and turns of the narrative. When a stranger, a man that Florence and Elsie once knew as young women, comes to live at Cherry Tree Home, it sets off a chain of events as they try to solve a mystery of mistaken identity, with alarming consequences. Cherry Tree Home vividly comes alive and takes the reader alongside the characters as they recollect events, that no-one else entirely believes, especially in relation to the stranger. The supporting characters who manage the home, Miss Bissell, Miss Ambrose and Handy Simon, are entwined with the resident's lives as they try to keep order of sometimes bewildered and bemused seniors. I like story lines that have an unreliable narrator ~ where the reader is never quite sure if what they are being told is true ~ and is used to great effect here. There are humorous moments too, quite 'dry' which I appreciated.
I now long to go to Whitby ~ a lovely setting for a scene where Florence and her friends undertake a mini holiday and get sidetracked by trying to identify the stranger, who they believe to be not who he says he is.
Joanna writes such believable characters with beautifully noted nuances and behaviours, with thoughtful attention to detail. Dementia is described with a light touch but is no less sharply observed. I also liked the twist of Florence not being certain about herself in what she believes or her sense of reality.
The story is nicely paced and kept me hooked. One of those stories where you want to know what happens next, yet do not want the book to end.
Three Things About Elsie is poignant and aching with sadness. The ending will live with me for a long time.
It's a book I highly recommend.