3 May 2020

Review: ELLY, Maike Wetzel

  • this edition published by Scribe 2020
  • ISBN 978-1-925849-16-5
  • 131 pages
  • translated from German by Lyn Marven
  • source: review copy supplied by publisher
Synopsis (publisher)

A missing child is a nightmare for any family. But what happens when they come back?

Eleven-year-old Elly is missing. After an extensive police search she is presumed dead, and her family must learn to live with a gaping hole in their lives. Then, four years later, she reappears. But soon her parents and sister are plagued by doubts. Is this stranger really the same little girl who went missing? And if not, who is she?

Elly is a gripping tale of grief, longing, and doubt, which takes every parent’s greatest fear and lets it play out to an emotionally powerful, memorable climax. It is a literary novel with all the best qualities of a thriller.

My Take

Let me point out first of all that I don't think this is crime fiction, although it certainly presents a mystery, and most probably a crime was committed.

Part of the mystery is trying to work out who is the narrator as the chapters swap from one to another narrator, with only references to other people as the clue. It is almost like a jigsaw puzzle.

Elly disappears one hot June afternoon on her way to the local sports hall. Her sports bag falls off her bike in the middle of an intersection. She drops her bike at the side of the road and goes back to collect her bag. No one seems to know what happened after that. The caretaker at the sports hall says she never turned up there.

Elly turns up 4 years later. Her parents get a phone call and they rush to collect her. Her mother is convinced of her identity but her father and older sister are not convinced. Nor finally is a therapist who says there are distinct physical differences between this girl and the one who disappeared four years earlier.

The narratives explore how each person has felt about Elly's disappearance as well as how they feel about her re-appearance. If she is not the person who disappeared four years earlier, then neither are they. We learn the sad truth from Elly herself.

My rating: 4.3

About the author

Maike Wetzel was born in 1974 and works as a writer and screenwriter in Berlin. She studied at the Munich Film School and in the UK. The manuscript of her first novel, Elly, won the Robert Gernhardt Prize and the Martha Saalfeld Prize. Maike’s short stories have been translated into numerous languages and received multiple awards. Her collection Long Days was published by Comma Press in 2008, translated by Lyn Marven.

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