The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D – read-a-long #3

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Nichole Bernier does such a great job of digging into the fears we all have, of showing the fears and other emotions that affect how we act/react in daily life.

Overall I think the message of this book is one of how similar we all really are underneath. We may react differently to life’s events, but overall we are the same. I also think there is a message towards the positives of being open. We fear so much – but if we are open to one another we learn how similar we all are, and can have deeper relationships from it.

Look at Kate, reading the journals. She discovered an Elizabeth she had never known and when she came to the end of the journals she found herself grieving again – not for the Elizabeth she had known, but the Elizabeth she hadn’t, and only now was beginning to meet.

At first I assumed that Dave had taken the last journal. I was so angry at him for it! When I realised it was missing I skimmed through the last  section, hoping to see sections of text in italics to show that Kate had indeed found the journal. When I couldn’t find the italics I felt cheated somehow. But Nichole wrapped up the end of the story satisfactorily – without the need to ‘read’ that last journal.

The ending was quite unexpected – while I began to doubt that Elizabeth was having an affair, the idea of Michael as a healer of some form. At first I assumed Elizabeth was seeking help for depression, but when the true reason came out everything fell into place. I understood Dave, and felt sorry for him.

The argument between Dave and Kate gives another insight into life in general. Dave accuses Kate of using Elizabeth, of only seeing her as a mother. Yet Kate’s response is equally valid – that the identity of ‘mother’ is the one Elizabeth presented to the world, she hid all other sides of herself. How often do we do that? Hide the truth due to fear of what those nearest us might think. I am guilty. There are few who know of my writing, of my desire to be a published author. I am becoming braver, as more of my short stories are published (or accepted for publication) I find myself feeling a little more confident, a little more able to share my writing with my family and friends. Unlike Elizabeth I have not hid this from my closest family and friends, but there are still members of my immediate family who do NOT know that I write at all.

I liked the first paragraph on the final page “It was all so exhausting, trying to be understood. She’d once read a quote… that had stuck with her: If you knew all there was to know about a man, you could forgive him anything. There was something reflexive in the forgiveness, but of course, once you knew what made a person into a collection of oddities and defenses. The work to reach the knowing was exhausting, not the forgiving. That seemed to happen on it’s own.”

I really enjoyed being part of the read-a-long – it’s interesting to hear others views on the book, and what parts others picked up that I missed, or didn’t really think about in terms of the larger story.

Thanks very much to Bree at 1girl2manybooks@wordpress.com for hosting us and Allen and Unwin for providing the book! 🙂

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The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D – read-a-long

Check out Bree’s blog here for more comments on the read-a-long so far. (Warning – Bree’s blog and the following post both contain spoilers to what happens in the book – up to page 136).

I am thoroughly enjoying this book!!

The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D begins a few months after the death of said Elizabeth, who has left her journals – a large collection she has been writing in since early teens – to her friend Kate – and not her husband Dave. Dave has browsed through the most recent journal and found references to another man, jumping to the conclusion Elizabeth was having an affair.

Kate, her husband Chris and two children have gone away on their annual holiday, extending it this time by 7 weeks due to the death of Elizabeth, and Kate takes this time to read through the journals, starting at the beginning. Kate is surprised to find an Elizabeth who is largely unfamiliar. As Kate discovers Elizabeth’s secrets she begins to question how well we really know those around us.

Bree has asked a few questions in her post about the book so far:

Do any of our read-a-long participants keep diaries or journals, no matter how frequently? If so, have you ever thought about what might become of them after you are gone? If you had a choice, what would you want done with them?

I have kept journals on and off since I was about 12. Some were written in daily, whilst others are lucky to have a few weeks worth of entries. But I have always been aware that others might read them and that has definitely affected what I have written in them (When I have something serious to vent I write it on loose paper and burn it!). I would hope that if something happened to me my partner would read them and keep them for my children for when they are older.

 If you were the recipient of someone’s journals, would you read them? Or would you destroy them unread, so that their thoughts would rest with them? Or maybe you’d keep them until their children were old enough to decide what to do with them?

I would be reading journals someone had left to me for sure! And I would keep them for her children no matter what they held. For me, it’s like something Chris said early on – about Kate making a choice about what Dave and the kids need to know, about what’s best for them. But like Chris is saying – it’s not really Kate’s place.

I feel sorry for Dave. He has lost his wife, only to learn that her journals – the keepers of all her secrets, are to go to a friend, instead of him, her husband. Then he discovers proof (he thinks) that she was having an affair. To be honest if I was in his shoes I don’t think I could have resisted reading the journals, even though they hadn’t been left to me.

There is so much to talk about in this book. So many points where I felt a heartbreak for what was happening – p. 9 when Elizabeth’s son Jonah says “Did you know my mum is dead?” and there is that awful pause before Chris kneels down and says “I know buddy. I’m really sorry about that. My mom’s dead too. It’s hard isn’t it.”

I recorded so many other comments but here’s just a few. On p 19 Kate notes that the journals were agitating the healing process. It is partly for this reason I would give the journals back after I’d read them. No matter how hurtful the truth is, the not knowing, the lack of certainty means there is no room for Dave and the kids to move past what happened.

And p 20 “to free the key she had to relock the trunk, an excluding click that felt a further insult to [Dave]”.

At one point Kate found herself responding to the journals, like she was speaking with Elizabeth of that time. “Don’t trust him.” But she acknowledged that, “of course, whatever was done, was done.” p 75

I could talk about this book for hours, pages, but I’ll leave it here.

Next week we’ll have the next discussion (pp 137-272) So keep an eye out for that! And if you’ve read the book and would like to comment – feel free! 🙂 (Just up to p 136 though – I haven’t read the rest yet!!) 🙂