The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D – Nichole Bernier – Read-a-long


This is part 2 to the read along of The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D. Again – SPOILER ALERT and check out Bree’s blog for more discussion!!

PS This probably won’t make much sense unless you’ve been following along – for the first section check out:

and my first post:

p201 Max says “Well’ her family isn’t seeing that trunk again anyway unless you make peace with the fact that you can’t control the way she is going to be remembered. What she did is what she did.”

This quote relates to what we were talking about last time – about whether or not her journals should be shared with her children. And I suppose it made me think of other things too – if the journals are an honest account of our lives – why shouldn’t our children/loved ones read them? What are we afraid of that we hide away the true parts of ourselves from those we are closest too? We assume our emotions are unique, that no one else feels the way we do, yet of course everyone has a range of emotions and feelings. Perhaps by reading the journals Elizabeth’s children will be able to better understand their mother, and maybe even themselves and the consequences of their own actions.

From the reading so far it is easy to see ‘blame’ on both sides as to why Elizabeth had an affair (if that indeed is what happened). There were moments where she should have recognised something in Dave – p. 167 “I know this should be telling me something important, something I should be noting carefully… It’s about what you owe to someone who is in a bad way, a pact you made when you enter into a relationship… to see her out of this world as she saw you through it.” And yet she dismissed it, or ignored it and continued on, as though this would not matter at a later date. And then when it did happen, when she got sick and he did not contact her, she still let it pass and took him back afterwards. She knew from the outset what he would be like. Though I guess that happens to us all – there are things we don’t want to see, facts which, if acknowledged, would have led us to make a different choice to the one made. Kate sums this up well: “The effects of your choices might not be clear at the moment they were made. But if you turned back to see where you’d come, there they’d be, the ghost of the path not taken leading to the places you would never go.” p. 172

I no longer feel sorry for Dave, and that’s probably not fair – but I’m seeing him as a weak individual who would rather run from any pain than face it and deal with it and I’m guessing that is what has sent Elizabeth off – again assuming that is what has happened.

I want to know what’s missing from the journal – what pages Elizabeth tore out…

I have to admit, Kate is annoying me with her paranoia – her obsession over what might go wrong. Fear of terrorist attacks in Indonesia, of germs the baby wild rabbits might be carrying. She is so focused on what could go wrong.

And these are some other quotes that really stood out:

“I have to accept that I have no more idea of what happens in the solitary parts of his mind than he has of mine, and wonder if all couples are like this. In love and simpatico in many ways, but ultimately unknowing and unknowable.” p 256

“In the end I go back to that same feeling I’ve always had about confidences. The other person rarely has anything useful to offer and usualy you leave feeling no better, sometimes worse.” p. 258.

“What if all mothers experienced times of hopeless obliteration, and no one told?” p 263

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!!) 🙂

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

This month I am taking part in my first online read-a-long hosted by Bree at All The Books I Can Read.

The book is The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier (provided by Allen & Unwin), and while I’ve only just started the book – I’m only a dozen pages in – I’m hooked already!

I’m so looking forward to discussing it with the others, starting next Wednesday 15th August. The discussion will continue for three weeks as we make our way through the book. Be aware though, the comments will contain SPOILERS so if you want to read the book but don’t want to know what happens, don’t read too far ahead! 🙂