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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

The Ultimate Unreliable Narrator

Elizabeth is Missing - Emma  Healey

This is the story of Maud, the ultimate unreliable narrator, an elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and obsessed with the absence of her friend Elizabeth. It’s told from Maud’s perspective and into the confused narrative of her everyday life and her struggle to come to terms with the loss of Elizabeth is woven a parallel story from her childhood: the unexplained disappearance of her sister, Suki, just after the Second World War.

Laced with wry humour that is mingled with a great deal of pathos, the kaleidoscopic narrative jumps about between past and present as both Maud, and the reader struggle to sort out the real from the imaginary, the half-understood from the misunderstood, experiencing the same set of poignant but unmoored emotions.

What’s particularly neat is the ending which the author manages to make emotionally satisfying for the reader but not for the narrator who still fails to understand her own story. And that’s the real tragedy. It is not Elizabeth who is missing, after all, nor even Suki, but Maud whose identity is gradually and inexorably unravelling before our eyes