‘The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D’ by Nichole Bernier

Over the last few weeks I have participated in a read-along hosted by Bree at All the Books I Can Read (with many thanks to Allen & Unwin).  The book that we were all reading was The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier.

The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D is the story of Kate, a woman who inherits a trunk full of journals written by her close friend, Elizabeth, who died tragically in a plane crash. As Kate reads the journals over the course of her summer holiday, she discovers that the ‘real’ Elizabeth was far different from the one she knew.

The story immediately sets up the opportunity to explore some interesting themes – public versus private persona, the keeping of a journal (particularly pertinent in today’s highly visible, ‘online’ world) and the decision to entrust  a person with your ‘secrets’.

We quickly learn that Elizabeth was married and when she died, left behind three children, one of which was a baby. We also learn that Elizabeth had a sister that died when she was little and as a result of her death, Elizabeth’s parents divorced. These scenarios set up the main premise of the story – the suggestion that happily married, committed-to-her-family Elizabeth, was having an affair before she died (and in fact was on her way to meet her lover when the plane crashed).

When I’m stuck in a really good book, my house looks like a tip, I read while I make the kids their breakfast and I stay up late until I’m finished. I’m afraid Elizabeth D didn’t get this kind of response from me. It certainly had the potential (especially the bits where Elizabeth wrote about Kate and the other members of their mothers group – the horror!) but it was all a little too ‘white-bread’ for me – I can’t say anything more without revealing the ending (which I guessed well in advance).

My reading of this book was made more interesting by participating in the read-along. The general consensus by the other participants was that the character of Dave, Elizabeth’s husband, was not to be liked. I felt Bernier gently pushed the reader  into making him the bad guy and I kept thinking “How’s a man who has lost his wife, given up the career he loved and looking after three very young children supposed to behave?!”

I guess my interest in Dave is partly because my biological grandmother (who I never met) died when my dad was five and his sister was seven. In those days, there was no support systems for single dads – my grandfather had to work and as a result had to send the children away to live with his sister in the country. He also had to find a new wife darn quickly! He did remarry (the woman I consider my grandmother, although she passed away two years ago). I look at my own five and seven-year olds and think how life would be if one parent was suddenly ripped away from their world. It’s unfathomable. So, I guess I have more sympathy for Dave than the author intended!

Summer holidays in places like Nantucket mean one thing – lobster rolls. They’re best eaten in situ, but here is a recipe anyway.

2/5 Promising but didn’t quite deliver.

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