Excerpt from Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Three Things About Elsie

by Joanna Cannon

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon X
Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Aug 2018, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2, 2019, 384 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Tomp
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


We spend most of our time with each other, me and Elsie. We even opted to eat our meals together, because it makes it easier for the uniforms. It's nice to have a bit of company, because nothing in this world sounds more lonely than one knife and fork rattling on a dinner plate.

It was later that day, the day Miss Ambrose gave me my ultimatum, and Elsie and I were sitting by the window in my flat, having our lunch.

"They've still not shown their face," I said.

I knew she'd heard me, the woman in the pink uniform. She was dishing up my meal on a wheel three feet away, and I'm a clear speaker, even at the worst of times. Elsie says I shout, but I don't shout. I just like to make sure people have understood. I even tapped on the glass to be certain.

"Number twelve." I tapped. "I said they've still not shown their face. They've been in there a few days now, because I've seen lights go on and off."

The woman in the pink uniform spooned out a puddle of baked beans. She didn't even flinch.

Elsie looked up.

"Don't shout, Flo," she said.

"I'm not shouting," I said. "I'm making a point. I'm not allowed to do very much anymore, but I'm still allowed to make a point. And that Dumpster hasn't been collected yet. They need to be told."

"So why don't you write a letter?" said Elsie.

I looked at her and looked away again. "I can't write a letter, because I've been given an ultimatum."

"What do you mean?"

"Miss Ambrose has put me on probation." I spoke into the glass.

"What crime did you commit?"

"It's a figure of speech," I said. "That's all."

"They'll clear it all away soon, Miss Claybourne," said the woman.

I turned to her. "They shouldn't be allowed to just leave her things out like that, someone ought to be told."

"They can do whatever they want when you're dead," said Elsie. "Your world is their oyster, Florence."

In the courtyard, a tumble of leaves gathered at the edge of the grass, and oranges and reds turned over and over on the concrete. "I only saw her last week. Walking along that path with a shopping bag."

The woman in the pink uniform looked up. "It should make a difference," I said. "That I saw her. Now everything she ever was is lying in that skip."

"They had to clear the flat," she said, "for the next person."

We both watched her. She gave nothing away.

"I wonder who that is," I said.

Still nothing.

"I wonder as well," said Elsie.

The woman in the pink uniform frowned at herself. "I've been off. And anyway, Miss Bissell deals with all of that."

I raised my eyebrow at Elsie, but Elsie went back to her fish finger. Elsie gave up far too easily, in my opinion. There was a badge on the front of the woman's uniform that said HERE TO HELP.

"It would be quite helpful," I said to the badge, "to share any rumors you might have heard."

The words hovered for a while in midair.

"All I know is it's a man," she said.

"A man?" I said.

Elsie looked up. "A man?"

"Are you certain?" I said.

Yes, she said, yes, she was quite certain.

Elsie and I exchanged a glance over the tablecloth. There were very few men at Cherry Tree. You spotted them from time to time, planted in the corner of the communal lounge or wandering the grounds, along paths which led nowhere except back to where they'd started. But most of the residents were women. Women who had long since lost their men. Although I always thought the word "lost" sounded quite peculiar, as though they had left their husbands on a railway platform by mistake.

"I wonder how many people went to her funeral," I said. "The woman from number twelve. Perhaps we should have made the effort."

Excerpted from Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon. Copyright © 2018 by Joanna Cannon. Excerpted by permission of Scribner. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Cozy Mysteries

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Territory of Light
    Territory of Light
    by Yuko Tsushima
    Set in Tokyo during the late 1970s, Yūko Tsushima's Territory of Light chronicles a year in the...
  • Book Jacket: Unmarriageable
    Unmarriageable
    by Soniah Kamal
    Soniah Kamal makes no secret of the fact that her novel Unmarriageable is a retelling of Jane Austen...
  • Book Jacket: The Paragon Hotel
    The Paragon Hotel
    by Lyndsay Faye
    Lyndsay Faye's arresting The Paragon Hotel focuses on how disparate groups of marginalized people ...
  • Book Jacket: When Death Becomes Life
    When Death Becomes Life
    by Joshua D. Mezrich
    Though it happened more than ten years ago, Joshua Mezrich still clearly remembers setting out in a ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Force of Nature
by Jane Harper

As atmospheric, tense, and explosive as her New York Times bestselling debut, The Dry!

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Sounds Like Titanic
    by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman

    "A tricky, unnerving, consistently fascinating memoir."
    --Kirkus, starred review
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Night Tiger
    by Yangsze Choo

    "Wonderfully combines a Holmes-esque plot with Chinese lore."
    --PW, starred review
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Cherokee America

Cherokee America
by Margaret Verble

An epic novel from the author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist Maud's Line.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P C, Absolute P C A

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.