Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives 2020 – Elisabeth’s Lists: A Book Review by Annika Perry

Welcome to the current series of Posts from Your Archives in 2020 and if you would like to participate with two of your posts from 2019, you will find all the details in this post: New series of Posts from Your Archives 2020

This is the second post by author Annika Perry and is a book review for Elisabeth’s Lists by Lulah Ellender

Elisabeth’s Lists: A Book Review

My signed copy of Elisabeth’s Lists: A Family Story by Lulah Ellender

There is a word in Japan for unread books left to pile up around one – tsundoku! I’m guilty of a few tsundoku collections of books; ones bought with well-meaning and tingling anticipation. Somehow they become unintentionally forgotten and lay precariously balanced with other books, dangling over the edge of shelves.

Often treasures of literature are hidden among these and this is the case for one such book which I recently extricated from a listing pile and eagerly I started to read the book.

‘Elisabeth’s Lists’ by Lulah Ellender is a gem! I was hooked from the very beginning and it is incredibly moving and thought-provoking.

The beautifully crafted book is an eloquent memoir based on the life of Lulah’s grandmother. A life recorded in meticulous detailed lists; lists which were entrusted to Lulah by her own mother.


The lists started during Elisabeth’s childhood whilst growing up in 1930s China. Just as her father was a diplomat, so was her husband, Gerry and her world travels continued into adulthood. The lists, many innocuous and of everyday items, included information about packing, dinner parties, price of food and even the names of hens and number of eggs laid. The lists are endless. A touching heirloom in their own right, they have been transformed into a moving and heartfelt book by Lulah. Her research and dedication are superlative and the end result is a sweeping and engrossing story of Elisabeth’s life.

Postings abroad included Madrid under Franco’s regime, post-war Beirut and Rio. In sharp contrast Elisabeth endured the hardship and deprivation of bombings and food rationing in England during World War Two, whilst at the same time finding a certain peace and harmony as a normal suburban housewife, away from the hectic duties of a diplomat’s wife. Throughout the book the various eras are exquisitely captured and provide a vivid impression of the times.

It was not all a joyous time however, as occasional bouts of depression, some post-natal, forced Elisabeth to seek medical care and time away from the family. Furthermore, a family tragedy darkened her life.

The author, Lulah Ellender

The book develops into a deeply profound study as Lulah weaves the threads of her own life and that of her mother into the memoir. The three generations of women effectively become the focus of this family story; their lives remarkably intertwined and the memoir gives not only insight and comfort about motherhood, family, and loss to Lulah but also to the reader.

Even more heartbreaking and poignant is that the book is written whilst Lulah’s mother is terminally ill with the cancer; the very disease which killed Elisabeth when her daughter was only nine-years-old. As Lulah delves deeper into Elisabeth’s life she finds some solace and acceptance in her own life; a process which she describes with exceptional clarity and feeling.

As she must feel, I believe that without our past, our present is unclear, our future unnavigable.

To conclude, ’Elisabeth’s Lists’ is an enriching, gifted and rewarding book and one I highly recommend.

I just want to add that I had the privilege of briefly meeting the author following a talk in March 2018 as part of Essex Book Festival. Her intelligence, warm and kind nature sparkled and she spoke with ease and confidence at great length without any notes whatsoever!

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars.

AVAILABLE: From bookshops, libraries, online such as Amazon UK and Amazon US

Finally, if this book seems slightly familiar to you from my blog, I mentioned it briefly in May 2018 in my post Books in the Shingle.

The title page of ‘Elisabeth’s Lists’ with inscription to myself and signed by the author.

©Annika Perry 2019

Annika’s new release. A delightful children’s book, perfect for 3 – 6 year olds – Oskar’s Quest.

About the book

Oskar is afraid of adventures. Yet one day he finds himself on a mysterious island which needs his help.Join Oskar on this unexpected and magnificent quest, where he finds not only courage but so much more…“It’s light, extremely enjoyable and very gripping.” Esther Chilton – author & editor.Perfect for ages 3 to 6.

One of the recent reviews for Oskar’s Quest on Goodreads

Jan 26, 2020 Jill rated it it was amazing

As a longtime follower of writer Annika Perry’s blog, I was excited when I heard she was working on a children’s book. From the first page, Oskar captured my heart, taking me on a journey to save a beautiful songbird, while meeting new friends along the way. This enchanting story is perfect for both children and adults, teaching lessons on the importance of caring for others and overcoming ones fears. The illustrations along with the lovely writing made this story come to life.

Head over to read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon UK

And: Amazon US

Also by Annika Perry

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon UK

And: Amazon US

Read more reviews and follow Annika: Goodreads

About Annika Perry

Annika Perry is a full-time writer, blogger and book reviewer. She was born in Gothenburg, Sweden and raised near Ilkley, West Yorkshire. Annika received her BA Honours Degree in German Language and Literature from the University of Leeds. Her initial employment was as a journalist followed by many years as an agent in the timber trade. She was awarded first prize in Writing Magazine’s Short Story Competition in 2014 and also shortlisted in an Ink Tears Short Fiction Contest. “The Storyteller Speaks”, a collection of short stories, flash fiction and poetry, was her debut book. “Oskar’s Quest”, a beautifully illustrated and enchanting children’s story, is her second published book. Annika Perry lives with her family in a small village in North Essex, England.

Connect to Annika

Author Website: Annika Perry Author
Linkedin: Annika Perry Author

Twitter    @AnnikaPerry68

My thanks to Annika for sharing this book review for Elizabeth’s Lists which looks like a stunning read. I know she would love your feedback. Thanks Sally.

71 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives 2020 – Elisabeth’s Lists: A Book Review by Annika Perry

  1. Reblogged this on Annika Perry's Writing Blog and commented:
    Many will know how much I enjoy writing book reviews on my blog and it’s a delight to share ‘Elisabeth’s Lists’ as featured today on Sally’s blog as part of her ‘Posts from your Archives’. If you’re not a follower of her blog, you’re missing out on a treat! Do take a look around and perhaps you have a couple of posts to submit yourself for the series.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful word – tsundoku. I am also guilty of it. Elisabeth’s Lists sounds fascinating. What a way to give us a glimpse into the past and the lives of those who precede us. I hesitate to add it to my tsundoku list though. There are too many listed already!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I enjoyed reading your review of Elisabeth’s Lists, Annika. It was quite unusual to write a memory through lists and yet amidst the everyday occurrences there seems to be much emotion and knowledge about countries under siege and especially what it must have been like being a diplomat’s wife.
    Thank you, Sally for this series. As Annika stated, there can be treasures of books among our tsundokus. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Carol, it’s lovely to see your comment here and thank you so much! Are you back from India? Has it already been a month since you left?! I do hope you write about your trip as I’m so interested to learn about your time there.

      You’re right about it being unusual to create a memoir from lists – and must admit I was sceptical until I saw some of the lists in the book, incredibly detailed. On top of this, the author undertook momentous research to fill in the gaps … her mother’s life was so varied. A hugely moving account of Elisabeth blended in with the author’s grief at losing her mother.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Annika, I am back from India and am seriously considering posting about my trip. I am just waiting for an angle to pop into my head. I am happy to hear that you are interested to learn about my time there. It encourages me to write about it. Thank you. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “As she must feel, I believe that without our past, our present is unclear, our future unnavigable.” Totally agree, Annika. It certainly makes moving forward more difficult. Even more difficult is when your mind hides parts of your past. –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

  6. You remind me, Annika, how we are not to judge a book by it’s cover. Yet, this cover looks beautiful and inviting. First time I have heard of “tsundoku.” I am also guilty.
    A wonderful review and extra special to meet the author, especially when this is a memoir created from lists. You remind me how unfortunately important stories from the past are forever lost, unless written down. I am always in awe how people can endure heartbreaking tragedy and hardships, yet move forward. Thank you for sharing. 💕

    Liked by 2 people

    • Erica, I think we are all guilty of judging a book by its cover to a certain degree! 😀It was interesting in the talk as the author, her agent and her editor discussed this cover. Lulah had been nervous before seeing it, worried she wouldn’t like it, would she dare utter her doubts. In the end, she loved this design, not surprising as it’s perfect. Hearkening back to older days yet modern, beautiful photo of her mother, and a classic font! The immediate inside of the book continues the red dappled colour – wonderful!

      Reading memoirs like this have a sobering effect and a wake-up call to me to how lucky I am in life, to how good I have it. Elisabeth’s swings in life were incredible and I was amazing at her fortitude. It’s been a delight to share the review here on Sally’s blog.

      Always a joy to ‘chat’ about books – I never tire of this topic! Wishing you and Sally a magical weekend – can’t believe we are already heading into March! hugs xx❤️

      Liked by 2 people

      • Annika, the small photo of the cover was my first glimpse of the book. You describe how it is perfect for this book. Obviously, a great deal of planning and thought went into the actual hard copy. You remind me how there is a place for both hard copies and ebooks. Enjoy this weekend. I hope your weather has improved. Cherry blossom season appearing around here. Yes, lucky in life! xx 💕

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – 23rd to 29th February 2020 – Clothes made out of Tents – Foods beginning with ‘D’ and Younger than Springtime…am I… | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  8. Annika writes the best-ever reviews. They always make me want to run out and buy the book, and she’s enticed me into reading many books that I otherwise wouldn’t try. Thanks for sharing from Annika’s archives, Sally. Lovely post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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