Book Review & Giveaway: Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

Book reviews By Jan 11, 2018 11 Comments

When a secret from the past resurfaces, Florence’s friends help her unlock the mystery in this gentle, moving novel about ageing, kindness, memory, identity… and the ripples our lives make.

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 little bit more explaining.
84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

Joanna Cannon’s Three Things about Elsie takes a compassionate look at growing old and how it’s often hard enough to be seen as another human being, let alone understood or even believed. To some, Florence is little more than an uncooperative old lady who shouts too much. But she’s really battling to stay alert and independent and keep what little freedom she has left in her sheltered accommodation, in order to prevent being sent to a nursing home. She turns to friends old and new, as she tries to remember a traumatic past event and finally right a wrong, if she can.

Three Things About Elsie is a wonderful tribute to the importance of friendship and the impact small human kindnesses can have on the recipient, even if they go unremarked by most others. Cannon uses the perspective of Handy Simon and Miss Ambrose to great effect, gently nudging us away from judging people too quickly and offering a more nuanced understanding, allowing for those times when people have lost their way in trying to find their sense of purpose.

This gentle, soothing story is best enjoyed with a pot of tea and one, two, maybe even three slices of battenberg. Then try and find time for Florence’s long seconds and look for Elsie’s Three Things in yourself and others.

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon is published by The Borough Press, an imprint of Harper Collins, and is out as an ebook and audiobook and in hardback today. You can buy it from Amazon UK, Audible UK, Foyles, Hive (supporting your local independent bookshop), Wordery and Waterstones. For more about Joanna and her books, check out her Author Website or find her on Twitter.

This review was originally written for Lovereading UK and appears on their website. My thanks to the publisher and Lovereading UK for the review copy provided.

I have one hardback of Three Things About Elsie and one paperback of Joanna Cannon’s first novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep to give away (UK only). Tell me Three Things about yourself in the comments below and the squirrels will pick a winner on Sunday. 



  1. BookerTalk says:

    Like the sound of this! 3 things about myself – hmmmm. Lets go with the most exciting first…

    – I was once held at gunpoint on a bus in Beirut

    – I have more than 300 unread books in my shelves

    – When I’m not reading or blogging about books I love to delve into family history

    1. kath says:

      Exciting isn’t the word I would have gone with there. Crikey! I need to get the full story from you next time we meet.
      And I want to know if the family history research turned up any surprises.

      As for that other one, perfectly normal. No biggie. *blinks at own shelves*

      1. BookerTalk says:

        The family history research into my great grandfather was fascinating. I found out he had served in the Boer War and then in WW1 in France, Salonika and Egypt. Not bad for someone from a tiny village that had one road in and one road out 🙂

        1. kath says:

          Incredible experience when you think that in a time of peace he might never have gone further than a few miles from home.

          1. BookerTalk says:

            Absolutely, no-one in my family ever knew of his travels since he never talked about them..

          2. kath says:

            Too closely associated with his wartime experiences, so he suppressed it all, I suppose.

  2. Three things about me
    1. love to read – anything, anywhere, anytime – but fiction mostly. Always have at least one book on the go. –
    2 When I’m not in work or reading I’m challenging myself with walks. Just coming to the end of a 503 Mile challenge – equivalent of walking from my home town in West Wales to my late-grandmother’s home town in North East Scotland.
    3. I get very “itchy” if I don’t see the sea for more than a few days – think it’s all the mariners and trawlermen in my ancestry, I’ve probably got a large quantity of salt in my blood.

    1. kath says:

      A 503 mile walking challenge?! Wow, Mel, that is really impressive. Well done. My mother’s from Sutherland, so was your grandmother from Caithness? Whereabouts? As for 1 and 3, snap. Ink and salt in my blood, too, I think. 🙂

      The hardback’s gone but I have paperbacks of both books that I’d like to send you for such great answers. Will email you for your address!

  3. Three things about me:
    1) I’m doing a creative writing PhD
    2) I nearly appeared in a music video with David Bowie
    3) When I have time I like to do a bit of art journaling

    1. kath says:

      How is 1) going, Rosie? And with 2) you must be gutted to have missed out on that. How did it come about that you were going to take part in one of his music vids? 3) Is this purely for you or do you sometimes share what you’ve done or does it spark story ideas?

      The hardback copy of the book has already gone as I mentioned to Mel but I have paperbacks of both books available and would like to send them to you, as well, for such great answers. I’ll email for your address. And thanks for taking part!

      1. Kath, I missed this! But I did receive the books so thank you very much for the surprise package.
        1) It’s going okay…hoping to have some real time soon to actually concentrate and produce some real research.
        2) Somebody I knew was involved in making the video.
        3) It is for me, but I do sometimes share the results. It’s never sparked a story idea but there is a sort of cleansing feeling that happens when I’ve finished which is a bit like an internal clearing of the decks.
        Hope you’re keeping well.

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