DISCUSSION #1:THE UNFINISHED JOURNALS OF ELIZABETH D.

This month I’m taking part in a read-along of The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D by Nicole Bernier. Bree from All The Books I Can Read is hosting and doing a great job – if you click on the link, you’ll see her thoughtful summary and discussion points, as well as other bloggers’ comments.
We’re reading pp1-136, a section that introduces Kate and her husband Chris. They’re off on holidays and on the way they stop in to see their recently widowed friend, Dave. His wife, Elizabeth, was Kate’s best friend, and she left her journals (years’ worth) to Kate. Dave is somewhat unimpressed but hands them over and Kate finds herself drawn into her friend’s life and secrets.

Here are my thoughts:

I picked this up after reading a particularly confronting novel, so it was like a breath of fresh air. The cover first got my attention – I love wood-framed windows – because of its inviting feel. To me, the cover says, open me, come inside to my world. As a blogger, the blurb spoke to me also – “before there were blogs, there were journals”. It got me thinking about how honest people really are in blogs, knowing people are reading them. Are journals more honest? What percentage of yourself do you really reveal in a blog, even if you are sharing an opinion? And so on…

Keeping a journal is something I’ve aspired to do many times in my life. Note the word aspired… When I was a teenager I was inspired by Anne Frank … while my situation was nowhere near Frank’s, I do know that I bored myself with “Today so and so looked at me…” or “Today I got my hair cut…” This sounds so pretentious now, but I wanted my journals to sound interesting in case anyone ever did read them, even though I would have been mortified if they had! Since then, like Bree, I have made sporadic attempts to keep a journal. It was hard for me not to self-censor sometimes, but I got better. Around 2004-7 I kept a semi-regular journal, which I have since thrown out. I kept this journal at an extremely difficult point in my life; it helped me think out all the “stuff” in my head, to get my head around things that were really hard to understand, to hold on to hope when my head was telling me there was none (in that situation).

Last year I started another journal, which helped me through another difficult patch, this time career related. I had such bad RSI, tendonitis and neck/shoulder pain that I was unable to work for many months. I started keeping a journal, partly as a way to exercise my hands and wrists, and on my physio’s recommendation. Some days I could write a few lines, others, half a page. But again, keeping the journal helped. I still have this one and will continue to add to it over time. I just don’t feel a need to add to it all the time. Would I want someone to read it? I’m not sure I would, really. But I also know that I do have a tendency to hold back, even in my journal, so they would probably still be bored!

I also find that typing somehow works better for me, which is why I like blogging. The difference with my blog is that I want to share what I’ve written – sometimes it’s on the fluffier, happier side and others, it’s darker… whatever I don’t want to share, I don’t.
So, would I read someone’s journal? Well, if they, like Elizabeth did with Kate, left it to me, yes, I would. I do think it would feel a bit strange, but the way I see it, there is a reason that it was given to you. I don’t think Elizabeth randomly left it to Kate, just because they were friends. You’d pick someone specific to do something like that. In the case that the person had died and I found their diaries, I think it would be harder to decide whether to read or not – how well did I know that person? Would I really want to know what they wrote? I do think curiosity may just win out…I’m a journalist! Of course, the other side of the coin is this…imagine what insight we’d have missed if no one had read Anne Frank’s diaries…

I agree with Australian Bookshelf that “Kate is weighed down with both the ‘privilege’ of inheriting the journals whilst also feeling burdened by the consequences of such knowledge.” And possibly guilt, knowing that Dave is somewhat jealous that she has them, despite his anger at what he found when he read some of the later entries. I also feel sorry for Dave – he does come across a bit abrasive, but look at what he’s dealing with – the loss of his wife, bringing up their children, realising that he may not have known his wife as well as he thought he did. That’s a lot to bear and it would leak out; not surprisingly it’s Kate who bears it, because she is going to get answers/insight and all he has is questions. Has anyone seen The Descendents (2011). This reminded me a little of that.

I don’t feel that I have really engaged with the characters yet, however, there is something in this that has me wanting to read more, and quite enjoying it besides.

What about you? Would you want someone to read your dairy after you died? Is there a particular person you would entrust them to? Or would you want them destroyed?