Review: The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier

Title: The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D

Author: Nichole Bernier

Published: Allen & Unwin August 2012

Synopsis: Summer vacation with her family was supposed to be a restorative time for Kate, who’d lost her close friend Elizabeth in a plane crash. But when she inherits a trunk of Elizabeth’s journals, they reveal a woman far different than the cheerful wife and mother Kate thought she knew. The complicated portrait of Elizabeth – her upbringing, her marriage, and journey to motherhood – makes Kate question not just their friendship, but her own deepest beliefs about loyalty and honesty at a moment of uncertainty in her own marriage. When an unfamiliar man’s name appears in Elizabeth’s pages, Kate realises the extent of what she didn’t know about her best friend, including where she was really going when she died. Written with grace, depth, and honesty, this is a story of two women – their friendship, their marriages, private ambitions and fears. And what they chose to keep hidden. Read an Excerpt.

Status: Read on August 18, 2012 — I own a copy {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Kate and Elizabeth’s friendship began after meeting in a suburban mother’s group. Bonding over the trials of juggling parenting, career ambitions and marriage, they traded favours and confidences but Kate learns she never really knew Elizabeth at all when she is left her journals after her tragic death.
“I’m leaving them to her because she’s fair and sensitive and would know what should be done with them, and ask that she start at the beginning.”

Kate’s reluctance to read Elizabeth’s journals soon gives way to curious fascination as the diaries reveal Elizabeth’s heartbreaks, anxieties and regrets – a dead sister, a dysfunctional mother, artistic dreams stifled, a difficult marriage. Elizabeth was not the uncomplicated women Kate judged her to be but instead someone who hid her private pain from those who presumed to know her best.
Bernier slowly peels back the layers of her characters and their relationships through Elizabeth’s journal entries and Kate’s reflections about them. Kate’s marriage has its secrets of its own, she knows Chris is hiding something but is not sure if it is just the occasional cigarette or something more serious. Kate is also hiding her anxieties stemming from the death of Elizabeth that was swiftly followed by the tragic events of 9/11.

Kate and Elizabeth are reminders that people are always more complex than they allow you to see. Both of the women in The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D are realistically flawed, struggling with their roles as individuals as well as wives, mothers. We never actually meet Elizabeth, who has died a few months before the novel begins, so we rely on her diaries, and Kate’s analysis, to learn about who she was. As Kate works her way chronologically through the journals as asked, she expects to find Elizabeth was in the midst of an affair at her death but not even the journals reveals all.
Kate comes across as cold and self involved at times but Bernier allows her the space to assess her own life and grow from what she learns about Elizabeth. I related to Kate’s anxieties for her family, it’s something I struggle with and not something I try hard to conceal. Kate also made me consider my own friendships and how honest the intimacies we share are.

A read that is sure to inspire some moments of self reflection, The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D is a thought provoking, poignant novel about the secrets we keep from others and ourselves.

Discuss this book further at the August read a long being hosted by Bree  at All The Books I Can Read

Available to Purchase

Australian Edition: @Allen & Unwin I @BoomerangBooks I @Booktopia I @Amazon

via Booko

International Edition: @Amazon I @BookDepository

At The Reading Room, you can win a copy, click the image for more details

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 10:58:03

    I’ve seen a lot of buzz about this one, and I’m glad to see that you enjoyed it, even if with some reservations. I must say, though, that I am a little tired of reading about affairs.



  2. laurelrainsnow
    Aug 22, 2012 @ 11:21:50

    This one does sound good! Thanks for sharing….



  3. The Australian Bookshelf
    Aug 23, 2012 @ 20:43:48

    I’m enjoying this one so far… finding myself over-analysing everything with the read-a-long though. I have the last section to read, but it’s good to see you enjoyed the whole book!



    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Aug 24, 2012 @ 10:51:30

      I find that with fiction and read alongs as well Jayne so I was happier to read it straight through, review it and then just join the discussion 🙂



  4. Mari @Bookworm with a View
    Aug 25, 2012 @ 06:31:11

    I didn’t love this one, considering the hype. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I was able to put it down, walk away… for days before picking it up again.



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