The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon was one of my absolute favourite books of 2017, so I was very excited about reading her second novel, Three Things About Elsie, even though it was still in hardback. As a rule, I don’t buy hardback books just because they’re too expensive, but I had some book tokens which I kept forgetting to spend and was worried would go out of date, so it seemed the sensible thing to do to spend them on a book I really wanted.
While The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is about two little girls, Three Things About Elsie is about two old ladies – Florence and her beloved friend Elsie. And in some ways there’s not a lot of difference between two little girls and two old ladies.
Florence and Elsie live in sheltered accommodation at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. One day, a new resident moves in and Florence is convinced it is someone from her past – someone who died over 60 years before. Together with Elsie and their friend Jack, they investigate the new resident – is he really who he says he is or is he the man Florence remembers from the past?
Florence sometimes gets confused and may have to move to Greenbank, a home for elderly people who need extra care. She struggles to piece together the past, but Elsie is always there to reassure her and help her – even if she does sometimes have to tell her to keep her voice down.
Florence, Elsie and Jack persuade the Cherry Tree staff that they should have a residential trip to Whitby, where they are convinced they can piece together the mystery.
The story is told by Florence, Cherry Tree manager Miss Ambrose and Cherry Tree handyman, Simon. Every few chapters we get a glimpse of the present day, where Florence is lying on the floor, having fallen in her flat, waiting to be rescued.
This is a brilliant book with so much to love – the characters and their voices, the humour and the story. What initially feels like a gentle story about two old ladies has a couple of real OMG moments towards the end, which I really didn’t expect.
Whatever genre of book you like, I don’t think you could fail to enjoy Three Things About Elsie.