Maud is 81 years old and suffering from dementia. Her friend Elizabeth is missing, and no one will believe her, or help Maud to find her.
Maud puts ads in the newspaper, frequently goes to Elizabeth’s home to search for her, and even visits the local police station on her quest to find her missing friend.
I read this book in just over 24 hours. Wow! I just couldn’t put it down. The dual story of Elizabeth and Susan, Maud’s sister, kept me going, along with the realistic and sympathetic portrayal of Maud’s character. Helen, Maud’s daughter, is also someone that tugs at your heart as she struggles to care for her mother, run her own gardening business, raise a daughter, and take care of all the in-between challenges with Maud’s ever-increasing dementia.
“How do you do?” the vicar says, shaking my hand. His hands are incredibly soft, as if they have been worn smooth by the amount of handshaking he has had to do. “I hope you enjoyed the service.”
I wasn’t aware that it was the sort of thing you were supposed to enjoy, so the question rather takes me by surprise.
“Oh,” I say.
He and the woman in the body-warmer start to move away, frightened off by my inarticulacy, and I look down at my tea and biscuits, uncertain what to do with them. I watch as a man takes two sugar lumps from his saucer, drops them into his tea and stirs. And, with a sigh of relief, I do the same with my biscuits, stirring the pulpy mixture round and round. When I look up, everyone in the little group of people is staring at me, except the woman in the body-warmer, whose eyes are fixed on the ceiling.”
Maud grew up in post-World War 2 London. The novel is not only a mystery but also a story that contains frequent references to the food rationing, the black market, rebuilding after the bombing, and the effects on people’s lives. Soldiers who return to homes they don’t even recognize any more try to pick up the pieces of a civilian life once again, and move on. Some people are never able to return to normal life again, and abandon their marraiges or families.
“What d’you want for breakfast?”
“I’m not allowed to eat,” I say, picking up the photo. “That woman told me.”
“The woman,” I say…I’m sick of explaining myself all the time. “That woman who works here.” Is that right? “She works here.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know the one…Yes you do. She works here. Always busy. Always cross. Always in a rush.”
“I think you mean me, Mum.”
“No,” I say. “No.” But maybe I do mean her. “What’s your name?”
She makes a face at her pile of washing. “I’m Helen,” she says.
“Oh, Helen,” I say. “I’ve been meaning to tell you. That girl you’ve hired, she doesn’t do any work. None. I’ve watched her.”
“Who are you talking about now? What girl?”
“The girl,” I say. “She leaves plates by the sink and there are clothes all over the floor of her room.”
Helen grins and bits her lip. “Pretty good description. Mum, that’s Kathy.”
“I’m not bothered about her name,” I say. “I’m just letting you know what she’s like You should ask her to leave, I think. Get someone else, if you must. I always did the housework myself at your age, but then the younger generations expect everything to be easy.”
“Mum, that’s Kathy,” Helen says again. “Your granddaughter”.
This is an amazing debut novel. The author based the character of Maud after her own grandmother who also suffered from dementia.