Thank you to Scribner, Simon and Schuster, and Netgalley for an early review copy of Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon, which was published August 7, 2018. All thoughts are my own.
From the publisher:
“There are three things you should know about Elsie. The first thing is that she’s my best friend. The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better. And the third thing… might take a bit more explaining.”
Eighty-four-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, she thinks about her friend Elsie and wonders if a terrible secret from their past is about to come to light. If the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?
When Joanna Cannon’s Three Things About Elsie was longlisted for the Women’s Prize, I read review after review but never gathered any intention of reading it. Then, I decided to request it from Scribner on a complete whim because I have no self control, at least when it comes to books. The result of my momentary weakness was a quirky, heartwarming story about growing old, being young, and the tough questions we must ask ourselves as we age.
Three Things About Elsie has a little bit of everything. There’s a little romance, a little mystery, and a little suspense, but at its center is the sweet friendship between Florence, the main character, and Elsie, her childhood best friend. The pair have a special relationship; they know each other better than anyone else, and I imagined them as those cute little old ladies I see while I’m out grocery shopping. They were hysterical together, and I enjoyed reading about the unique bond they shared with one another.
Beyond Florence’s relationship with Elsie is her role as an unreliable narrator. I have a growing admiration towards unreliable narration, so I fell in love with that aspect of Three Things About Elsie. While reading about Florence’s mishaps, I wondered if someone was actually setting her up for misfortune or if she was just losing her marbles. I believe Cannon intended for her audience to question Flo’s sanity, just like she intended for it to be a page-turning mystery.
Though I found a lot to admire with the characters of Three Things About Elsie, I found it too predictable when it came to plot, and unfortunately that ruined it for me. The “surprise” ending was all too obvious, and something I’d assumed from the start. I’m sure it would’ve been less predictable if I didn’t read so much, but it made me lose interest around the halfway point. I enjoyed the quirky characters and the unreliable narration, but the awkward writing style and predictability made this one a miss for me.
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