Joanna Cannon – Three Things About Elsie


Joanna Cannon forms part of a movement called ‘Up Lit‘ , which consists of books that are optimistic. Personally that does not bother me. What I care about is if the story is unpredictable an well written. In this aspect, Cannon succeeds.

The story focuses on Florence, an 84 year old living in an old age home, One evening she falls and retells a series of events that happened to her and her best friend Elsie over the past few months.

As always when old people are mentioned the dementia trope is used and Florence does suffer from this. In fact the book starts with a new addition to the home and Florence thinks that he is a person who a played a role in her past.

The rest of Three Things About Elsie is a sort of murder mystery. As Florence is an unreliable narrator, Cannon includes different characters in the narrative and us readers see the same event from their perspective.

Through the murder mystery Cannon proves how even the most insignificant detail can have an effect on one’s destiny and shape it. All the characters have some connection with each other and Cannon pulls this off well. I also liked the fact that at some points I was surprised and Cannon did not take a conventional route.

However the book is not perfect. At times it gently echoed Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (well I guess the character Ms. Honeyman is a tribute) and there’s one sequence when the old age pensioners gang up and go on an adventure, which felt a bit Enid Blyton at times BUT then in retrospect this adventure is slightly deceptive but obviously I can’t say why over here.

On the whole Three Things About Elsie is a well structured novel that is a quick  and pleasant read. It’s the sort of  book you would give someone who is in their late forties. It’s not offensive and neither does it insult one’s intelligence and has a feel good factor. It may not change your world but it will make it better for a couple of days.