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.