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The Unfinished Journals Of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier Read-A-Long – Discussion Part 2

on August 22, 2012

Hello everyone and welcome to Week 2 of our discussion! Thank you to everyone who took part in the discussion last week, we had such a large number of comments and people shared really involved thoughts about how they were feeling about the book, which is always awesome. You guys make my job so fun and easy!

As always…. ***SPOILERS*** ahead!

Okay our second section of the book – we’re in to the 3rd week of Kate and Chris’s holiday and Chris is working and the kids are at camp which gives Kate quite a bit of free time to devote to reading the journals. She reads through a rather large part of Elizabeth’s life, her years living in New York, her love for her job, her romantic relationships that come and go. We also find out how Elizabeth met Dave in this section and are privy to their relationship and eventual marriage. Did the way in which they came to be married surprise anyone? I know that I was certainly quite surprised when I read it – I was struggling with liking Dave in the first section we read and I have to admit that section 2 didn’t really have me warming up to him at all. The way in which Dave bolted at the vets when his dog needed to be put to sleep and then his abandonment of Elizabeth when she received some possibly bad test results at the doctors didn’t sit well with me. As Elizabeth voices in her diary, no one likes doing these things, but they do it anyway. Elizabeth only contacted Dave in the future because she discovered that she was pregnant – it’s likely that had she not done that, she’d never have heard from him again after he ran upon her telling him of the test results. In her position, would you have made that call?

That leads to them marrying and then the pregnancy results in a miscarriage for Elizabeth, yet another loss for Dave. This time however, he doesn’t run permanently and they agree to try again some months later, perhaps beginning the marriage that Kate comes to see later on when she moves to the area. Kate moving in is detailed in that section of the book too as well as Elizabeth’s first perceptions of her and some moments of Kate interacting with the mother’s group.

I actually found it easy to relate to a large portion of this part of the book – like Kate, I’m a stay at home mother to 2 children. Unlike her I didn’t have that passionate career but I do feel like whichever choice you make, there will always be people who will tell you that it is the wrong one. Likewise I felt for Elizabeth when she first joined the mothers’ group and was judged for drinking caffeinated coffee, having a mercury thermometre in the house, etc. Parenting is such a difficult thing to navigate for first time mothers (and often it’s just as hard with subsequent babies, when you’re supposed to be an ‘expert’) and it seems that at times, you cannot admit that you’re tired, that you’re frustrated, that you’d like to just scream. Or run away!

This section also saw more of Kate’s paranoia surface – she is frightened by a low flying plane over the island and she also freaks out when her children find some rabbits in their neighbours yard. What I found interesting is that although she’s also bothered by Chris being in Indonesia and areas close to it for work, it’s kind of like she’s less bothered by that than she was about the rabbits, even though she’s just read about new terrorist cells in the area. She’s distracted by her children and she forgets about it almost immediately, whereas it seemed that the episode with the rabbits lingered, although perhaps that was because Chris made fun of her.

After the birth of her oldest child Jonah, it is discovered that Elizabeth tore out pages in the diary. Kate assumes that these were possibly dark days that detailed post-natal depression. Why do you think Elizabeth chose to tear them out when she had left many other difficult things in, and also expressed anger at her mother destroying her diaries when she was young?

This is one of my favourite quotes from this section:

Maybe loyalty is for swans and bird-minded people too afraid or too unimaginative to see the alternatives.”

I’m finding Elizabeth quite the enigma!

How did everyone else go with this section?


48 responses to “The Unfinished Journals Of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier Read-A-Long – Discussion Part 2

  1. Feistykel says:

    I didn’t really understand the stuff about Kate and her fears. I understand it was post Elizabeth and post 9/11 trauma, but I just didn’t really get that extra element to her personality. it had little consequence and it felt a bit off kilter for me. I guess it added to the sense of something awry in her marriage with Chris’s reactions to it.
    I think this section really set up the basis from which Elizabeth decided to live her entire life. These major critical things at the beginning of her relationship with Dave would set the tone for her entire life. I wonder if we all have these things happen and if they are so clearly outlined in life?
    His name escapes me but Kates friend on the island whos gay lover screwed him over in his bakery business- loved that character! Just felt he really added a great dimension to Kate and to life in the island.

    • TroyMartin says:

      I agree with the very personal approach Kate takes to the threat of terrorism…it doe seem overdone, a little bit of hyperbole, maybe to really position the narrative in that time, not now, 11 years later where someone may look back and be critical of responses to terrorism. There isn’t a mention of the president of the time…

      (If she is so worried about the raising terrorist warnings, turn the TV off, find alternative means other than the mainstream media!)

      • The terrorism stuff bothered me a little too because it seems like she bothered a lot about these really out there and not very important things, but she’s not very concerned about other things, such as her husband travelling to certain areas, at certain times! The bit where she tries to remember where she heard the terrorist cell was and where her husband is kind of bothered me because I thought a person who would freak about her kids touching a rabbit might really take a little more notice of where her husband is in the world and where that relates to some trouble spots, which at this time, were being well documented.

    • Max is a nice secondary character, giving Kate some life. Still it does not give Kate much ‘life’.

  2. I found this section of the book more engrossing than the first although I am still finding the sudden injection of really descriptive bits ditracting and overworked – an example that jump to mind was the background about an ex-collegue of Kate’s who went on to start a 9-11 charity… What did that have to do with anything?! Plane crash link? Likewise the bits about bakery owner Michael and his ex.

    I’m finding Kate’s anxiety a little random – worries about Chris’s travel and her daughter’s broken doll are given equal billing on one page. And of course the rabbits, Chris’s smoking etc etc

    I actually like Dave as a character. I suspect I’m not supposed to. However, I think everyone grieves differently and also grieves for different people (or pets) in different ways each time. Dave has been hurt and so has Elizabeth – we judge Dave for leaving the vet, not contacting Elizabeth, dealing with the miscarriage the way he did but we don’t judge Elizabeth for not even revealing the information about her sister. Again, it’s about people grieving in their own way and I would never judge someone who was grieving – you do what you have to do.

    PS. I’m glad I didn’t keep a journal when my mothers group started! There might have been some unforgivable things written – I’ll blame lack-of-sleep and too many homones 😉

    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out says:

      “Likewise the bits about bakery owner Michael and his ex”

      Did you not think that the storyline that included Max (the baker) and his ex underscored the theme of never really knowing someone? After all his ex partner cheated and took off with Max’s life savings.

      • I agree Shelleyrae, to me that was another instance in Kate’s life where someone she knew was deeply disappointed by someone they loved, who turned out to be a fraud. And I think Kate also feels a bit of guilt about Max even if she doesn’t acknowledge it because she knew his lover was not as sincere as Max believed him to be and she never said anything.

        • I actually think that making Kate’s anxiety quite random made it all the more believable. She’s trying hard, but I think she’s finding it hard to make sure logic prevails. She’s struggling with grief and fear, mostly in isolation sometimes making it hard to think sensibly about ‘threats’

    • I couldn’t keep a jounral on the premise that I would never want it found. That one stray comment taken the wrong way can destroy an illusion of a person. This is what we are seeing a lot of in this book.
      A mention of another man and everybody gets their knickers in a knot. It is all too pat for me.

  3. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out says:

    I totally get Kate’s free floating anxiety, it’s an expression of Kate’s grief for the loss of Elizabeth and the uncertain times – it’s been, as best as I can tell, barely a year, maybe 6 months, since 9/11 in the novel and facing your mortality is disorientating. I think it also makes you more receptive to questioning your life choices, which Kate is doing.

    I might have called Dave but I wouldn’t have invited him back into my life. His behaviour shows a pattern of not being able to deal with difficult things, I am not surprised that Elizabeth never told him about her sister – he makes it obvious he doesn’t want to deal with anything confronting or distressing.

    I think you are right Bree about the missing diary pages, E;lizabeth seems a woman ripe for post natal depression and it wouldn’t surprise me if those pages had suicidal ideations.

    • She does, doesn’t she? She’s had a lot of things happen to her in her life – guilt over her sister, caring for her mother, estrangement from her father, an abortion, a miscarriage, a partner that she didn’t perhaps marry in the “in love, happily ever after” kind of way, plus some dissatisfaction about her career. She wants to work, she wants to feel validated, important, like she’s contributing and she LOVES her job. She says that a lot in the diaries, and she admits that sometimes she feels like she could scream. That comment where the diaries resume, about how now she can get up without counting the hours until Jonah goes back to bed – that seems to me that she was in a very dark place during the pages that were removed and that suicide, or harming might’ve featured very predominantly.

    • I thought the same about the missing pages – my first thoughts were post-natal depression and suicidal thoughts. Looking back some months later, when she felt she turned a corner, I think Elizabeth probably wanted to erase that time, if only symbolically.

      I’ve torn pages out of my journal before. I’ve thrown out whole journals. The ironic thing is that you can’t erase the memory or the feelings, they stay with you even if the “evidence” is gone.

  4. I really enjoyed this section of the book. I loved the parts with Kate and Max at the bakery. She seems to feel very much at home there. I feel for her that Chris isn’t more supportive about her returning to work. As a working mother myself, I know how hard it is to get that work/life balance right. I also sympathise with her anxieties and found it quite believable that she would be experiencing panic attacks.As well as the grief she is dealing with, Kate is feeling stifled and would love to find the freedom she once had.

    I am finding that I don’t have much sympathy for Dave anymore and I definitely wouldn’t have taken him back.

    I loved the part with Elizabeth dropping the thermometer and picking up the mercury with scotch tape. I thought it was hilarious and added some light relief. I get the impression she is feeling totally overwhelmed (depressed?) being a new mother and joining this bitchy mothers’ group hasn’t really helped that.

    Really looking forward to the conculsion.

    • Nichole Bernier says:

      I can’t resist slipping in at this mention of the mercury thermometer. It’s the only completely autobiographical part of the book — that happened to me exactly as it’s written, and I wrote that scene nearly verbatim from my own journals.

      Except for the response by the playgroup. Mine was very supportive and found the whole thing hilarious. Especially since we were including in the newspaper police reports of “emergency calls” a few days later in our local paper. Argh!

      • TroyMartin says:

        Oh, no. The author might read what I wrote about her novel…

      • I’m glad your playgroup was more supportive than Elizabeth’s was, Nichole! It seems that there’s so much judgement at times, in parenting – FF versus BF, co-sleeping versus own room, controlled crying versus rocking to sleep, there can be such a competitiveness in motherhood. I really like how Elizabeth feels like she can’t always confide in people how she’s feeling about motherhood because there were times when I really felt the same way, after having my 1st. After having my 2nd, I was more like f*ck it, I’ll do what’s right for me, no matter what anyone else thinks!

        Thanks for stopping by to check out our discussion 🙂

    • They were so unsupportive. Do you think it’s a subtle, or inadvertent form of bullying? Putting down someone else to take the emphasis away from their own insecurities?

      I also found the scene amusing … Nichole, just read your comment – how lucky you were to have a mothers’ group that laughed with you.

      • I do think it’s a form of bullying, a gang mentality to make someone feel inferior, or judged. Even if you are horrified, it’s not hard to try and be supportive, rather than condescending.

      • Nichole Bernier says:

        I’m fortunate my group was a very supportive one, Bree and Monique, which I’m sure is the only reason we’ve all stayed friends as long as we have — even after some of us have moved away, we travel to meet up for the big milestones in life.

        I’m very much enjoying this read-a-long, and all the thoughts about the book, its themes and characters. Thanks so much for the thoughtful group commentary on it!


  5. […] 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!!… […]

  6. Hi Bree and everyone!! 🙂

    Again I’ll answer your qns first. Would I have told Dave about the pregnancy – yes – but I probably wouldn’t have told him anything else until he came to me. Then again, if I had decided to have an abortion I probably wouldn’t have told him – there seems to be no point if he is not going to be part of her life anyway.

    I really enjoyed this part of the book too. I am so glad I had a mother’s group that was not judgmental! And this quote really struck me: “What if all mothers experienced times of hopeless obliteration, and no one told?” p 263 Because often we don’t, we don’t share the nightmares of child rearing, not really, and I suppose there is good reason for that – you don’t want to scare anybody off having children, but as a mother going through those moments it would be nice to know others felt it too.

    Kate’s paranoia is really annoying me, she worries about every little thing, though there is nothing she can do to prevent these things for the most part. The impression I got with her worry about Chris, was not so much that she forgot about it, but more that she chose not to worry about it any more, because there was little she could do.

    I wonder if we will learn what might have been in those missing pages. I imagine it would have to have been a very dark time for Elizabeth that she did not want them shared.

    • I think I’d have done the same as you Heather – I’d have told him out the pregnancy but that would probably be as far as I went…and if I chose not to go through it then I would never have contacted him again. It’s not like he’d have gone with Elizabeth to a clinic, if that was her action – he’d made it pretty clear that he wasn’t good at things like that!

      I agree that too often it seems that people can’t share the hard yards of parenting and motherhood be it by not wanting to frighten others away or because of the fact that it seems like everyone else is coping and you might not be! Usually everyone is feeling the same and just hiding it behind a wall of “oh everything is GREAT!” and all it takes is one person just to break the ice and say “hey, sometimes this really sucks!” lol.

      Like you as well I’d love to know what was so dark….she shares plenty of other difficult times, such as the miscarriage, caring for her mother. The missing pages really intrigue me.

  7. I was engrossed in this section – much more than the first section.

    I totally understand the anxiety issues with Kate (I have a daughter with OCD & I have an anxiety disorder). I’ve found anxiety is like this – you fixate on one thing, like the rabbits but are too embarrassed to tell even the person you are closest to because it does sound wrong and out of place. Meanwhile something else that you should worry about gets little attention.

    I still can’t decided if I would have called Dave about the pregnancy because I think we don’t have the full picture of the relationship that let to the pregnancy – there had to be more to it for Elizabeth to stay with him than just the negative reactions and I felt that came out with the birth of the second child & the dam breaking on the story of her sister. The next referral to the baby is Anna even though until then he was so opposed to the name. Perhaps Dave is one of those ‘still waters run deep’ kinds. I’m hoping the final part will be his big redemption.

    As for the missing parts of the journal – I’m wondering if she has thought ahead that one day when she is gone her children will read them and she has written some very dark thoughts about how she feels about her baby while lost in PND. There might be the wish that the child wasn’t born, was someone else’s responsibility? Or worse?

    I find the discomfort of reading what your close friend thought of you works well – I think that would be painful. I’m also liking that neither Elizabeth or Kate really fit well with the mothers group – I felt the same way.

    Looking forward to pressing on to the end and finding out what the deal is with Michael, he didn’t seem to get the spotlight in this section so I’m taking that to mean he hasn’t been in Elizabeth’s life for that part.

    • I really do wonder sometimes why Elizabeth did stay with him… their relationship seemed really odd to me from the start. They seemed to have different ideas about things – evidenced when Dave is surprised that Elizabeth wanted to keep working after Jonah was born.

      I think you might have it right about the missing pages… they might contain some dark thoughts about the baby that could really be hurtful if they ever came out and she may have read back over them when she felt better and been so utterly horrified by what she wrote that her only option was to make all the words disappear.

    • I think it would be so uncomfortable to read what someone else has written about you in their journal. I really felt Kate’s discomfort, her embarrassment.

      • Oh, same! I would -hate- to read someone’s impressions of me because you know no matter how good friends you were, there’s still going to be times where you’re going to read about them being furious with you, or really hurt by something you did, even inadvertently. And then there’s always the chance of finding out they don’t value the friendship as you do, etc. So much potential for embarrassment and misery there!

  8. I think the thing that I’m finding most fascinating about this book, is that no one is what they seem. Elizabeth most obviously, and Dave as well. I think that even Kate is revealed as appearing different to others than she does to herself… just imagine reading about yourself in someone else’s diary! Even a random stranger, knocking on your door with a badge and a suit, isn’t what they seem to be…

    I can understand why Elizabeth told Dave, and I think it was the right thing to do. I am surprised, nonetheless that they stayed together… I think it’s in this section that the true nature of Elizabeth and Dave’s relationships starts to be revealed, and I’m starting to understand better how she might have been tempted to stray.

    I’m really enjoying this book, and this conversation, and I can’t wait to read the next section!

    • TroyMartin says:

      I agree with the idea that no one is what they seem. Every character has flaws. The male characters, husbands to the two central females, are nicely drawn. One a former pro-golfer, now the widow raising three children, is in a constant state of flux. Does he need help raising his children? Why are people still offering lasagnes and baby-sitting duties? The other a globe-trotting executive talking of hotel purchases in Asia as bargains due to the down turn in the global economy after 9/11. And he smokes cigarettes!

  9. Reblogged this on That Book You Like… and commented:
    Part 2 of the current read-a-long of ‘The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D’ It’s a fascinating book and a fantastic conversation. Take a look, but be warned – there’s spoilers!

  10. Susan says:

    Technically speaking, I found this middle section to be full of clunky writing. Sentences with clashing words like “the *vision* of her life rearranged itself as effortlessly as cellular *division*” (p.170), rhyming sentences like “…she’d slip away to the bathroom to sit quietly alone/His parents could not have been more unlike her own” (p.174), alliteration such as “Piper picked up her putter and swung sloppily” (p.253) and bizarre allegory like the word horning in “I’d be horning in on his grief” (p.175)

    I find Dave’s weird detachment in dealing with death and sickness a little too far-fetched and I find it hard to believe that Elizabeth would take him back so readily after his silence. Elizabeth sounds like a headstrong woman, and her complete forgiveness here seems strangely out-of-character. However, as it has already been noted above, perhaps the whole idea is that nobody behaves in this book as they are supposed to.

    I like the Elizabeth doesn’t immediately warm to Kate when she meets her (as few of us seemed to either); this feels remarkably honest and genuine. I also really connected with Elizabeth’s lucid description of how hard she sometimes finds motherhood, especially this sentence: “The mailman rings the bell and wakes Jonah after just a twenty-minute nap and I could cry I feel so robbed.” The only thing worse than someone waking your baby up is when you accidentally wake them up yourself!

    Likewise, the struggle between Elizabeth’s career/home choices felt especially real. I know how it feels to try and be everything at once and at times it can be soul-destroying. I really sympathised with Elizabeth during this section and understood how this feeling of failure, of not being enough, came to shape her as a wife and mother. The blown-tyre metaphor on p.265 worked to illustrate Elizabeth’s frustration beautifully.

    The section where Kate misjudges Elizabeth as not being anywhere near as talented or career-savvy as she actually is (p.270) was really interesting, and captures one of the resonant themes of the book. It certainly make me think about how many other people I might have misjudged myself, or how many times I have felt that I haven’t been taken seriously enough, especially by people who might see me as ‘just a mum’.

    The incident with the FBI agent was unfortunately too contrived for me to believe. I know these things happen to people, but here it felt a little too conveniently placed. I think it was the inclusion of the newspaper clipping in the diary that bothered me. I mean, would you want to keep a memento of such a terrible event like that? Perhaps it worked as a reminder not to be so naive in future. I don’t know, it just didn’t work for me.

    • I totally agree with your comments on misjudging people Susan! I’ve also thought about that since I read this section, the way that Elizabeth and Kate had totally different thoughts about Elizabeth approaching Kate for the graphic design for the restaurant. Kate seemed to have absolutely no idea how much Elizabeth loved her job, what it was or how good she was at it and I do wonder how easy it is to do what Kate did. I don’t necessarily feel it was overly Kate’s fault as Elizabeth never really seemed to talk about her career or her passion for it but I thought it was interesting. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who wonder what it is I do all day because I’m also “just a mum”!

      • This aspect of Elizabeth’s story resonated with me strongly. I remember about 12 years ago, probably around the 10-year high school reunion point, and I created this whole speech in my head about how I was not “just a mum”, even though at the time, I was a SAHM to two beautiful young boys by choice. I hated the idea that some of my former schoolmates would judge me because I knew some had gone on to amazing careers, and here I was, still working through my uni degree by correspondence…

  11. I really enjoyed this section and began to relate to Kate and her fears. (Post 9/11 world was scary!) I loved finding out too that Elizabeth was not what she first appeared to Kate.
    More thoughts on my blog – I’m really intrigued to see what everyone thinks of the ending next week!

  12. I was surprised by Dave and Elizabeth’s marriage; I just got the sense that she was really not that into him. There are a lot of undertones of grief in their relationship, yet neither are willing to confront them. I agree with you Bree, Dave’s character was a little tarnished for me when he walked out of the vet. But perhaps I judge him harshly, because I personally could not leave my beloved pooch in his final moments alone. Following that incident, it didn’t surprise me when Dave vanished when Elizabeth announced her medical issues. I get the sense that both have quite avoidant coping styles, when things get tough Dave runs and Elizabeth puts up a hard exterior. I think if I was in her position, I probably would have made the call to him about the baby. He’s the father, and even if he abandoned her when she needed him most, he had the right to know that he was to become a father. I was surprised he stuck around following the miscarriage… but not surprised that he refused to talk about it.

    I was really absorbed in the entries about Elizabeth’s experience of motherhood and in particular the mother’s group. It’s amazing how many women put on a brave face to the public because they are ‘expected’ to be happy and quickly adjust to this life-changing experience. I work with mums-to-be and new mums and Elizabeth’s thoughts ring true for many mothers out there who are afraid of saying them out loud for fear of being judged. It’s clear that Elizabeth really struggled in her transition to motherhood; she was haunted by unresolved grief and loss of her sister and the associated guilt with that. It was also like an entire part of her personality was just chopped off and it angered her. She wanted to be an artist and a mother but it seemed no one else was interested in all the other parts of what made her whole. I agree with Shelleyrae, there’s a whole bunch of risk factors there for postnatal depression and it’s likely Elizabeth entered quite a dark time in her life. Unfortunately, Elizabeth was also someone who would not seek out help; she tried to deal with those dark feelings on her own.

    In terms of Kate’s fears, I do find them a little confusing. I suppose the fears and worries and the fixations do make sense if she was an anxious person. But I didn’t really get that sense of her earlier in the book- perhaps I overlooked those subtleties. I just feel like it doesn’t flow and perhaps the author has tried too hard to create this aspect of her personality. For example, when Kate wanted to bathe the children early in the afternoon and then her husband said ‘stop being so rigid’ (or something like that) and for me it just seemed really out of the blue. I hadn’t perceived her in that way before. Perhaps the third part of the book will shed a little more light on this. Another thing that doesn’t sit well for me is the subtle hints the author has dropped to make the reader question the trust and loyalty in Chris and Kate’s relationship. I feel like I’m being set up to be suspicious of them and it will turn out to be something else entirely.
    Really enjoying this story so far and I love hearing everyone else’s experience of the characters and the story. Great questions, Bree!

    • I’m the same Jayne, I didn’t like Dave in the beginning but I found what he did at the vets really wrong and I agreed with Elizabeth – what if she wasn’t there? Would he have just let that dog be put to sleep alone? And then just disappearing because she had some potentially difficult test results? That would’ve infuriated me! And I don’t think she was really that into him either.

      It’s funny how so many mothers and mothers-to-be share these fears and feelings and yet really struggle to talk about them for fear of judgement, censure, being misunderstood, etc. It shouldn’t be taboo to talk about struggling, or less-than-fuzzy feelings towards babies because everyone has those days but it seems that it still is.

      I find Kate’s fears confusing at times too, given she had a high pressure job – being a chef in a kitchen in a decent restaurant in New York would not be a walk in the park at all. Some of the things she seems anxious over are a bit left field.

      Glad you’re enjoying the story and discussion!

  13. TroyMartin says:

    Reblogged this on Litistan and commented:
    The discussion around The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D is why I love people who love books…

  14. Tien says:

    If I were in Elizabeth’s shoe, whilst I may have taken Dave back from running away from the disease which after all goes away by itself and I would have shared the pregnancy with him, I beg to differ in the marriage decision. Elizabeth knew that she would not be able to rely on him anyway, so why bother to go the whole nine yards? But then again, I’ve not seen what happens after he left his golf tours and whether he will actually contribute in equal partnership of parenthood. And I highly suspect, Elizabeth was just lonely – aching for a family of her own?

    • Could be that you’re right – she had an abortion back in her teen years and it could be that this time around she really just wanted the family, the stability and she was going to take it any way she could. I’m not sure that Dave was overly stable but she had a good job to begin with and it seems she felt she could look after herself although obviously she hit a very dark time trying to do that.

  15. Lisa M says:

    I loved this part of the book – I understand Elizabeth telling Dave she was pregant, but I don’t seem to think they would be together if it wasnt the case of her being pregnant and I don’t know if I would have gotten married to him. I felt sorry for Dave in the first part of the book but the more I read about his behaviour the more i disliked him and understood why Elizabeth didn’t leave him her journals.

    I also didnt understand Kate’s fears they seemed a little confusing and odd, and her relationship with Chris is odd as well

    I wrote some more on my blog here

  16. Sussan says:

    I agree with Lisa about Dave’s character. The more I get to know him, the less I like him, but then again I think I would naturally feel an affinity with female characters over male characters. I think the characters are becoming more distinguished and developed as the plot progresses. However, I also find myself agreeing with Susan’s comments about the language. I am also sometimes thrown off track by some of the characters. I think the story of Kate and Elizabeth’s friendship is complicated enough in its own right and the characters we get to meet on the way sort of throw me off course.

  17. I marked a few pages with quotes that appealed to me for one reason or another:

    ‘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’ – p172

    Are you a “what if” person? Do you make a choice and then wonder later (turn back) if it was the right one? (The ghost of the path not taken) Or do you make a choice and move on? Unfortunately, I have a tendency to turn back and second guess myself sometimes…still trying to unlearn that!

    ‘She wondered how much of what she’d assumed was superficiality might have been his way of masking something he felt too much’ – p221. Kate reconsidering the Dave she thought she knew. Had she judged him harshly in the past? Have we as readers? I think there is more to Dave. He’s flawed, but he’s strong in other ways. And I’m guessing here but I think Elizabeth is protecting him by keeping the journals from him.

    ‘ “Even in great relationships, there are limits on how well we can ever really know someone.”‘ – p221 Totally agree. I am still learning about my husband and my children, even my mother. They still surprise me, as I am sure I do them. You don’t need a journal to tell you that.

    There are a couple more, but I have a son to pick up from the station late at night. Oh, the joys!

    • OK, here are the other quotes that stood out for me,

      ‘She hadn’t thought to be wistful or protective of the parts of herself that she might be leaving behind…’ – p227. Kate is reflecting on Elizabeth’s desire to work part-time after her first child is born, and her frustration that Dave expects her to stay at home. While I had no doubt that I wanted to be home with my boys, a few years later I did begin to wonder where “I” was – where were the parts of me that I’d left behind. Do you think that Elizabeth is more of a giver and Kate is more of a taker? I think so.

      On page 270, Kate realises she has judged Elizabeth’s tendency to say yes, to be a giver, as a sign that she was “simple” and “dreamless”. What I love about this is that Elizabeth has, in a gentler way, conveyed to Kate some simple truths that needed hearing. Kate strikes me as someone who would not have listened any other way.

  18. This part of the book sunk its tentacles in deep and pulled me under (I finished the entire book, I couldn’t stop!)

    For me this part of the story opened up how much of the people around her Kate didn’t know – not only people now far gone or distant, but even her kids, her husband and herself. Through the journals Kate’s struggle to identify the “truth” or reasons behind things affects her days and nights, and I felt empathy for how difficult she was finding her lack of control over things (and people) in her life.

    I’m drawn to the use of catastrophe in the story. One of the earliest glimpses of Kate we have is of (tellingly) Chris’ favourite photo of her – taken during her show on tv when a dish collapses. Some would see that as an utter catastrophe, but Kate’s laughing. As time and the story progress, the catastrophe’s (imagined or otherwise) wind Kate up tighter and tighter, particularly the catastrophe of realising she would have liked the person Elizabeth really was more than who she thought she was. International disasters are also mentioned, which Kate fears, but stronger looms the possible destruction of a marriage, just as devastating as a bomb attack or virus outbreak.

    Compelling, though provoking story – and discussion!

  19. I’m still really enjoying this book – I like that as it goes on you can start to see elements from her personality in her entries, and you discover how she became the person she was, and I really like that it is one of those cases of the grass is greener – someones life may seem so together and perfect, but there may be so many different flaws and issues when you really know someone.

    I’m not so sure I like Dave’s character either – It seems so different from my first impression of him at the beginning of the book, and not someone I would really want to settle down with at all. He seems very distant and harsh at times. Its very possible that Elizabeth had an outside view on him, as it would seem Kate & Elizabeth’s friendship really was the thing holding the families close.

  20. I have Kate’s paranoia annoying, with her looking for every excuse to rationalise it. Elizabeth is such a different person from what Kate knew of her, but in all of it I still do not think that Elizabeth is having an affair.
    One thing I get from Elizabeth is loyalty – the loyalty to Dave (even though I do not him much either) is a constant throughout this second section. Best examples of this are the vet incident and the marriage. I struggle to see how or why Elizabeth would still choose Dave.
    All in all though, and this surprised me as as it will you, I am still enjoying this book. The writing is unexciting but easy to read and the lingering story of why Kate got the books is keeping it all propelled.
    I am really waiting to find out what the hook is. I will bet that it is not an extra-marital relationship. Any takers??

  21. ScarlettHeartt says:

    This line really struck me (p256) ‘I have to accept that I have no more idea 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’. It is so true. Ultimately we are unknowable. Sometimes because we don’t even really know ourselves. We don’t know how we will react to a situation until it happens. We can’t see who we will be next week or next year or in 20 or 40 years time. We can never know ourselves completely and so it is naive to think we can ever know another completely. Which, to me, is sad and wonderful at the same time.

  22. I am really enjoying this book. I was sucked into part 1 and even more this part.
    I find it so fascinating that you can be so close to someone yet not ‘really’ know them at all.
    How could Elizabeth not have shared some of these thoughts? I guess it is one of those things that I guess you never really know someone. I also don’t really understand Kate and Chris’s marriage – they both want to say things to each other but don’t communicate. ie, Kate wants to tell Chris she is dissappointed he is still smoking and lying about it no less and Chris wants to tell Kate to give up the journals they are taking over her every thought.

    Cannot wait to see what happens next! LOVE THIS BOOK.

  23. […] Journals of Elizabeth D. For those who want a summary and don’t mind spoilers, click here for the host blog. I’ve tried not to give away too much […]

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