"How do you solve a mystery when you can't remember the clues?"
"Maud’s been getting forgetful. She keeps buying peach slices when she has a cupboard full, forgets to drink the cups of tea she’s made and writes notes to remind herself of things. But Maud is determined to discover what has happened to her friend, Elizabeth, and what it has to do with the unsolved disappearance of her sister Sukey just after the Second World War."
Maud knows Elizabeth is missing but no one else seems to be taking her seriously. Undeterred, Maud is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and find her missing friend. Unfortunately, Maud is forgetful. She has an ever growing collection of tinned peaches, often fails to recognise her daughter and grandaughter and frequently finds herself in places without quite knowing what she's there for. Despite all this, the note in her pocket keeps her reminded that Elizabeth is missing and she will solve this once and for all...
I came across this book having seen someone else review it and noted the title down on a to-read list in my notebook a few months ago. With reading more being one of my new year's resolutions, I found myself browsing Amazon in search of something new to download to my Kindle. I recalled the title, knew that I'd written it down because whatever had been written about it had intrigued me - but couldn't actually remember why I wanted to read this book in particular. Which is perfectly fitting for this wonderful novel about a lady with dementia who knows she's looking for someone, but can't remember quite what she's trying to find.
Mental health is one of my passions and conditions of old age such as dementia make up a huge part of it. One of the troubles with mental health problems is that it can be incredibly difficult to put yourself in the shoes of someone with them and really see the world from their perspective.
Dementia can feel like such a mystery, seem so illogical and random and difficult to understand. What this book does beautifully is really get into the mindset of the main character and portray dementia from a view point I've never been able to experience before. Emma manages to incorporate the slow progression of memory loss and confusion into the chapters. As the book gets towards the last chapters, the story would jump around between a past story and the the present story, entangling the two, or describing things that had happened but which had not been mentioned earlier in the book. At first I thought I was just getting tired and not properly understanding what was going on - but actually it's an incredibly clever way of demonstrating some of the difficulties, lost memories and confusions someone with dementia might be experiencing.
It's sensitively written and harrowing realistic in dealing with the struggles of confusion and conflict, of frustration and sadness and the impact dementia has on surrounding family. From subtle things like replacing words that Maud cannot remember, to her daughter Helen's moments of exasperation as she cares for her mother, it all reflects the realities of dementia I've witnessed in real life. Even early on in the book, little details of how Maud feels about this cruel disease stripping her of her independence manage to evoke strong emotions in me as the reader.
With all the focus that has gone into creating such an accurate depiction of dementia, you could easily forgive Emma for a more simplistic storyline. But that's not the case with this book. Despite the additional challenges of writing in first person as someone losing their memory, this story still manages to have plenty of depth, twists and turns and unexpected plot developments. In fact - the dementia aspect enhances the story greatly as links are made, the past and present intertwined to reveal new clues in both storylines.
This was a perfect read to take my into my new placement on Care of the Elderly, but would also be an excellent choice for anyone wanting a slightly different take on a mystery novel...