Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Bookish thoughts on Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

Three Things About Elsie is filled with some lovely touches of humour, poignancy, and perceptive observations on life.

As well as this, it invites the reader into a mystery regarding a man from our main character Florence's past.

Florence is in her eighties and living in managed accommodation for the elderly. Elsie is her best friend - this is the first of the three things about her. As the book commences, Florence has fallen in her flat, and she is thinking about recent events in her life, telling us about Elsie, and about another friend in the flats, Jack, and also about a new arrival, a man who brings back past memories for Florence and causes her to embark on solving a mystery buried in her past, if she can just reach within her mind and find the answers. 

Joanna Cannon writes with warmth and in a compassionate, honest way in dealing with dementia and ageing, as well as portraying the bonds of friendship and companionship. 

There are many beautiful observations and expressions once again in Joanna Cannon's writing, as I found there were in the author’s debut novel, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, but this time, for me, there is a stronger and more compelling story to go with it.

I enjoyed the stories woven in about the side characters of Miss Ambrose and Handy Simon, both with their issues of self-doubt and self-discovery, though I felt I would have liked to know a little more about Jack, for him to have felt just a little more fleshed out as a character. 

The book cover is a lovely appealing design of Battenberg cake which was very tempting every time I looked at the pattern, and the jigsaw pieces emblematic of Florence trying to piece together the past and find that missing piece in her present.

As I said, there were some lovely expressions and thoughts on life, many sentences and passages I marked as I read and which caused me to pause and think, some of which I've shared below.


Some of my favourite pieces of writing from the book:

'She always wore cheerful clothes, it was just a shame her face never went along with it.'

'A small existence, disappeared. There was nothing left to say she'd even been there. Everything was exactly as it had been before. As if someone had put a bookmark in her life and slammed it shut.'

'We'd only been there ten minutes and my mind started to wander. It can't help itself. It very often goes for a walk without me, and before I've realised what's going on, it's miles away.'

'Elsie's father left for the war and returned as a telegram on the mantelpiece.'

'But sometimes life takes you along a path you only intended to glance down on your way to somewhere else, and when you look back, you realise the past wasn't the straight line you thought it might be. If you're lucky, you eventually move forward, but most of us cross from side to side, tripping up over our second thoughts as we walk through life.'

'It's strange, because you can put up with all manner of nonsense in your life, all sorts of sadness, and you manage to keep everything on board and march through it, then someone is kind to you and it's the kindness that makes you cry. It's the tiny act of goodness that opens a door somewhere and lets all the misery escape.'

'It didn't take them long to undo my life. I had spent eighty years building it, but within weeks, they made it small enough to fit into a manila envelope and take along to meetings.'

'...perhaps it's only in the silence that you're able to hear just how loud your own worrying is.'

'Nothing he had a go at seemed to fit. Life sometimes felt like trying on the entire contents of a shoe shop, but all of them pinched your toes.'


  1. Thank you for this, I now think I will have to read it.

    1. Thanks Ruth, I hope you do like it if you read it.

  2. This sounds very good. As I get older I tend to like books where a character goes back into their past. Nostalgia and sentimentality about the past can make for such good stories.

    1. It certainly works well in this story. Thanks for commenting Brian.

  3. How nice to see you "in public" again Lindsay! I had no interest in this book until I read your review.... will look out for it now.

    1. Thanks for commenting, I much preferred this to Goats and Sheep.

  4. I do love the cover and I love books that involve the characters looking back at a past event. I love the quotes you shared and this sounds like a good read.

    1. Thanks Katherine, this was a really enjoyable and moving read for me.


Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and leave a comment. It's great reading your comments and I really appreciate them :)