The GROUP met early on a Sunday evening to discuss ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ by Emma Healey. We met at this time because the autumn term started the next day and we always have a couple of children coming with their parents.
‘Elizabeth is Missing’ is a mystery novel about a lovely old lady called Maud who was in her seventies, living on her own with the help of family and paid ‘carers’ who came in every day. Maud had dementia. Her daughter, Helen, lived nearby with her granddaughter, Katey. All tried to make Maud’s life as happy as possible. This was very difficult because Maud was obsessed by the fact that her best friend, Elizabeth, was missing. She could not find her anywhere. She enquired about Elizabeth’s whereabouts of everyone she met, including Elizabeth’s son, and at frequent visits to the police station. No one gave her a believable answer, instead becoming annoyed by the continual questioning and the searching of Elizabeth’s house and garden.
When Maud was young she had a beautiful older sister called Sukey who was married to a small time criminal. One day she mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen or heard of again. I will not spoil the book by revealing the story but I will tell you that during Maud’s search for Elizabeth, she finds the truth about Sukey’.
The Group discussed the book long and hard. We talked about the plot but, most of all, we discussed the subject of dementia. All of us knew of a friend or relative who had suffered or was still suffering from this terribly frightening disease. The book describes very well the feelings of Maud, her relatives and the ‘carers’ who are paid to keep her safe. This is not easy, because Maud continually escapes to look for Elizabeth. This worries everyone. It is not all bad. All do their best to make the situation bearable. This is particularly true of Sukey who seemed to handle the situation better than anyone. I thought that this book was written from experience, not research alone, as it described the situation so well.
When discussing with the Group how dementia changes the sufferers and the lives of those around them, I became quite emotional, remembering my friend who was a victim. I had never been a patient person so the experience of living with a sufferer taught me a big lesson. My friend had been part of my family for many years when this horrible disease crept very slowly up on her without any one noticing. As in the book we had to answer the same questions time after time. We also had to supervise her whereabouts, otherwise she could get lost and have no idea of her location.
My friend was not ill in any other way. She was strong and active. The saddest part to bear was that I lost my friend, as her character completely changed. Having been a quiet person, she gradually lost all inhibitions and behaved as if she did not particularly like me. There was nothing I could do to change the situation, which was upsetting.
The family looked after her for many years until she needed the nursing care that we could not provide. The day she left was a sad day, as I had promised to look after her in my home forever (a promise that should never have been made, because it simply could not be kept). We visited her often in different nursing homes. Because she was so active, she was difficult to place. Eventually she lived in a special mental hospital where she could walk up and down the long corridors day and night. It was not long before she did not recognise any of the family. She lived until she was well into her nineties.
I recommend this book, ‘Elizabeth is Missing’, as did most of the Book Group. We always score the books out of ten. We gave it 9 – one of the highest scores ever.
The evening ended with tea and wonderful cakes.
Our next book is ‘ALL the UGLY and WONDERFUL THINGS’ by BRYN GREENWOOD
TAGS. BOOK GROUP,’ELIZABETH IS MISSING, DEMENTIA, CHANGE OF CHARACTER, LOSS OF INHIBITION, NON STOP QUESTIONING,FRUSTRATING FOR BOTH SUFFERS AND CARERS, STRAIN ON RELATIONSHIPS AND FAMILIES affecting differentSUFFERS IN DIFFERENT WAYS,COMPLETE LOSS OF MEMORY,INCONTENANT,SOMETIMES VIOLENT BEHAVIOUR,AGGRESIVE,COMPLETLY CONFUSED.ACTIVE DAY AND NIGHT.