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 2019, 384 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Tomp
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


"How very strange," I whispered.

"I know." Elsie smoothed tea cake crumbs from the tablecloth. "It only seems like yesterday."

The man paced the room. There was something about the way he lifted his collar, the shrug of his shoulders, and it made the world turn in my stomach. "It does. But it can't be."

"It is. Ninety-eight. I've counted them whilst you've been wasting your time staring out of that window."

I frowned at Elsie. "Ninety-eight what?"

"Days until Christmas."

"I didn't mean—" I looked back, but the lightbulb had given up, and the man with the collar and the shrug of the shoulders had vanished. "I thought I recognized someone."

Elsie peered into the darkness. "Perhaps it was one of the gardeners?"

"No, at number twelve." I looked at her. I changed my mind and turned back. "I must be wrong."

"It's dark, Florence. It's easy to make a mistake."

"Yes, that's what's happened," I said. "I made a mistake."

Elsie went back to sweeping crumbs, and I pulled the sleeves down on my cardigan.

"Shall we have another bar on the fire?" I said. "It's gone a bit cold, hasn't it?"

"Florence, it's like an oven in here."

I stared into the shadows, and the window of number twelve stared back at me. "I feel as though someone just walked over my grave."

"Your grave?"

I definitely must have made a mistake.

Because anything else was impossible.

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

* * *

We were halfway through Tuesday before I saw him again.

Elsie was having her toenails seen to, and it always takes a while, because she's difficult to clip. One of the uniforms was dusting the flat, and I was keeping my eye on her, because I've found people do a much more thorough job if they're supervised. They seem to appreciate it when I point out something they've missed.

"How would we manage without you, Miss Claybourne," they say.

This particular one was especially slapdash. Flat feet. Small wrists. Earrings in her nose, her lips, her eyebrows—everywhere except her ears.

There was a mist. The kind of mist that hammers the sky to the horizon to stop any of the daylight getting in, but I saw him straightaway, as soon as I turned to the window. He sat on one of the benches in the middle of the courtyard, staring up at number twelve. He was wearing the same hat and the same gray overcoat, but that wasn't why I recognized him. It was because of the way he pulled at his collar. The way he wore his trilby. The very look of him. You can spot someone you know, even in a strange place or a crowd of people. There's something about a person that fits into your eyes.

I wanted to point him out to the girl with the earrings. I wanted to make sure she could see him as well. You hear about it, don't you? Old people's minds conjuring things up from nowhere and inventing all sorts of nonsense to fill the empty space, but the girl was in the middle of having a conversation with herself, and pushing a duster around the mantelpiece. And I was on probation. Miss Ambrose hadn't gone into detail, but I was fairly certain hallucinations wouldn't go down particularly well.

When I looked again, the man was still sitting there, but his elbows were resting on the back of the seat, just like they always used to. As I watched, I felt the color leave my face. I wanted to knock on the glass, make him turn around, but I couldn't.

"Miss Claybourne?"

Because if I did, I might never be able to look away.

"Miss Claybourne? Is everything all right?"

I didn't move from the window. "No it isn't," I said. "It's about as far from all right as it can get."

"But I've been over the mantelpiece twice. If I dust it again, it'll make me late for the next one."

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" articles
  • 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 $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Cozy Mysteries

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Winter in Sokcho
    Winter in Sokcho
    by Elisa Dusapin
    Our unnamed narrator is a young French-Korean woman who works at a guest house in Sokcho, a popular ...
  • Book Jacket: Second Place
    Second Place
    by Rachel Cusk
    Rachel Cusk's Outline trilogy drew much of its substance from monologues and dialogues that swirled ...
  • Book Jacket: The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman
    The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman
    by Julietta Henderson
    The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman is the comedic debut novel of writer Julietta Henderson. It ...
  • Book Jacket: In Search of a Kingdom
    In Search of a Kingdom
    by Laurence Bergreen
    The Age of Exploration in the early modern period, lasting roughly from the 15th through 16th ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Girl in His Shadow
by Audrey Blake
The story of one woman who believed in scientific medicine before the world believed in her.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Ariadne
    by Jennifer Saint

    A mesmerizing debut novel about Ariadne, Princess of Crete for fans of Madeline Miller's Circe.

  • Book Jacket

    Crossing the River
    by Carol Smith

    A powerful exploration of grief that combines memoir, reportage, and lessons in how to heal.

Who Said...

A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas--a place ...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A S I T closet

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.