Thursday 4 January 2018

Review ~ Three Things about Elsie by Joanna Cannon

The Borough Press
11th January 2018

Thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Eighty-four year old, Florence Claybourne has fallen in her flat at the Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly, and whilst speculating on which of the hapless staff will find her, Florence has the opportunity to look back on the events of recent weeks and of the strange way that fate has broken through the protective barriers which she has so carefully placed around herself.

Through Florence's conversations with her friends, Elsie and Jack, and with Florence's wry observations of the vagaries of sheltered living, we come to know more about Florence's life, her friendship with Elsie, and of the connection that Florence has with, Gabriel Price, the mysterious new resident of the Cherry Tree Home.

Cannily perceptive of the incredibly complex world of sheltered living, Florence's sharply observed criticisms of the place and its people are so beautifully written that I found myself going back over words and phrases to reread them. That Florence has some problems with her memory make the unreliability of her narration so expressive, and the truth, that Florence gives us, makes the story all the more poignant.

The description of Florence’s life at the Cherry Tree Home was absolutely perfect, the petty squabbles, the innate boredom, the disinterest of staff who treat the elderly as commodities to be moved on when life gets difficult, and of the scary decline into memory loss and uncertainty. All are observed with a sensitivity which I found quite heart-breaking and yet, there were times when I found myself laughing at some of Florence’s antics, her sharp tongue and her caustic wit gave the story an endearing authenticity which reminded me so much of my mother, it hurt.

However, it must also be said that, Three Things about Elsie is not about older people reminiscing about their past and being grumpy in their present, at its centre is the story about a dark mystery, which involves Florence and her friend Elsie, and of a long buried secret which has been hidden so deeply that, even now, years later, when the truth is finally revealed, lives will be changed forever.

When I started reading Three Things about Elsie just a day into the New Year, I didn’t expect to find the first book on my Reads of 2018 list, but I have found it and it’s quite, quite special.

I hope that you would like to read it too.

About the Author

Joanna Cannon graduated from Leicester Medical School and worked as a hospital doctor, before specialising in psychiatry. Her first novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep was a top ten best seller and was a Richard and Judy pick. She lives in the Peak District with her family and her dog.

Twitter @JoannaCannon



Three Things about Elsie is to be published by The Borough Press on the 11th January.



  1. I am the same - first book of the year and it's definitely on the top reads list!

    1. It's wonderful when that happens !! And so many book still to go....

  2. I purposely didn't review until 2018, as I knew it would be in the Top Books list. I'm so pleased that I loved it, I'd heard some fairly negative things about it from early readers

    1. Likewise Anne, I didn't read any reviews until I had read and written my own review. Glad to see so many people loved it too...


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