Summary and book reviews of Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

Three Things About Elsie

by Joanna Cannon

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon X
Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2018, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2019, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Tomp
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About this Book

Book Summary

The bestselling author of the The Trouble with Goats and Sheep delivers a suspenseful and emotionally satisfying novel about a lifelong friendship, a devastating secret, and the small acts of kindness that bring people together.

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?

From the acclaimed, bestselling author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, Three Things About Elsie is a story about forever friends on the twisting path of life. As we uncover their buried secrets, we learn how the fine threads of humanity connect us all.

CHAPTER ONE

It all started a month ago. A Friday morning. I was glancing around the room, wondering what I'd done with my television magazine, when I noticed.

It was facing the wrong way. The elephant on the mantelpiece. It always points towards the window, because I read somewhere it brings you luck. Of course, I know it doesn't. It's like putting new shoes on a table, though, or crossing on the stairs. There's a corner of your head feels uncomfortable if you don't follow the rules. Normally, I would have blamed one of the uniforms, but I always go over everything with a duster after they've gone. There's usually a need for it and it helps to pass the time. So I would have spotted it straightaway. I notice everything.

"Do you notice anything different?"

Miss Ambrose had arrived for our weekly chat. Fidgety. Smells of hair spray. A cousin in Truro. I decided to test her. She scanned the room, but any fool could tell she wasn't concentrating.

...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Why do you think author Joanna Cannon decided to set the novel in a nursing home?
  2. On page 63, Florence says, "I needed someone to hold my worrying for me." How does Elsie play this role for her?
  3. The act of naming and renaming things is a recurring theme in the novel. Why do you think this is significant?
  4. Did Florence's failing memory change your understanding of events at Cherry Tree? Does it make her a less reliable narrator? Why or why not?
  5. "Simon wondered where his life ended and their life began, and how we could all be stitched so tightly together, yet the threads between everybody still go unnoticed" (page 124). How does this idea of the bonds between humanity play out throughout the novel?
  6. "'You've got to find ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Three Things About Elsie is a satisfying cozy mystery featuring a charming cast of characters in a setting not often represented in literature. In addition to its escapades and revelations, it’s sprinkled with bits of philosophical wisdom and humor centered around aging.   (Reviewed by Sarah Tomp).

Full Review Members Only (692 words).

Media Reviews

The Sunday Express (UK)
Funny, melancholy, acutely observant ... your heart will finally crack in two on the last page.

The Daily Telegraph (UK)
Irresistibly good-hearted ... captivating

The Guardian (UK)
Powerful and profound.

Publishers Weekly
While readers are likely to guess the mysterious 'third thing' about Elsie early on, and the book's shocks depend on some unlikely coincidences, Cannon makes her protagonist sympathetic and touches lightly on how easy it is to make false assumptions about the elderly. Readers may come for the mystery, but they'll stay to spend time with Florence.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A rich portrait of old age and friendship stretched over a fascinating frame.

Reader Reviews

Sandi W.

Grabbing Premise, fizzeling story...
A study in aging - the loneliness, the loss of memory and the secrets kept for years. Florence Claybourne has fallen in her apartment. She lives in a retirement home and she knows she will soon be found. As she lays on her floor she begins to ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Cozy Mysteries

Angela Lansbury in the cozy mystery show Murder She WroteThe mystery is one of the most popular genres of literature, and the "cozy mystery," a term coined in the late 20th century, holds steady as a favorite subset of crime fiction.

Cozy mysteries are marked by compelling, yet relatable characters. The "detective" is an amateur, thrown into an unexpected, undesired situation. Most often these stories feature an educated, pleasant, and mature woman as the star of the story. Importantly, this main character is someone the reader could imagine befriending. She may have a special interest or skill, but overall she is more ordinary than extraordinary.

An insular community, like a small town, confined resort area, or a retirement community, as in the case of Three Things About Elsie and The Last...

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