The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
RRP $ 27.99
Copy courtesy of the publisher
Read as part of the Read-A-Long, hosted by http://1girl2manybooks.wordpress.com/
The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D is about the friendship between two women, Kate and Elizabeth. When Elizabeth dies in a plane crash, Kate inherits a trunk of Elizabeth’s journals. At first Kate is keen to spend her summer holidays reading the journals, but the further she reads, the more Kate discovers that Elizabeth wasn’t really the person Kate thought she was. Kate finds herself shocked at the number of life changing events Elizabeth has kept hidden. Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s husband Dave is upset that his wife hasn’t left the journals to him, and resents the fact that Kate is privy to Elizabeth’s thoughts and he is not. Kate is torn between revealing the things she has learnt from the journals to Dave, and keeping Elizabeth’s secrets.
At the same time, Kate’s marriage is on slightly shaky ground. Her husband Chris travels a lot for work, and Kate resents the fact that she has had to give up her job as a pastry chef in order to raise their two children – often as a single parent. Chris is less than sympathetic about Kate’s involvement with the journals and doesn’t understand why Kate feels such an urge to read them.
The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D is a novel about secrets, and the choices people make regarding those secrets. Which secrets should be shared, and which are better left hidden? At one point in the book, Kate says “You never know”. It highlights that age old question of “How well can we ever really know anybody”? I love the idea of keeping a journal (although I don’t seem to have the patience to actually maintain one), and the fact that writing a journal is such a deeply personal thing. When Kate reads Elizabeth’s journals, she realises she is being allowed into a private world, so different from the current climate where information is so instantly available to everybody via the internet.
The novel takes place just after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in New York, and the feelings of uncertainty that pervaded the world are dealt with well in the novel. Kate’s character is prone to panic attacks and worries about how she will keep her family safe in an increasingly unsafe world. Chris on the other hand, doesn’t share her worries, and is quite the opposite – being almost too relaxed.
I really enjoyed taking part in the Read-A-Long, and felt I got a lot more out of the book than if I had read it by myself. There were many differing opinions about the book, and it was interesting to read how people sympathised, or not, with the characters.