Book Review: The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D

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Author: Nichole Bernier
ISBN: 978-1-74331-122-6
RRP: $27.99

From the first time I read the synopsis for this novel I was hooked, I knew that it was something I was going to enjoy. I was also able to interview Nichole Bernier about the book, you can read the interview HERE. Originally I planned to read the book before the interview but changed my mind, which worked well for me because I like the fact that I had that author insight going in.


I was hooked on this book right from the beginning, even so it was a stilted read because I had a couple of stops and starts. Given the opportunity I would have loved to curl up with this somewhere totally distractionless and devour it – unfortunately that is a pipe dream in my house.

Journals give us an uncensored look right into the heart and mind of a person, they house our most sacred thoughts and feelings and utilised completely give the most accurate account of who we are; they show us from every angle and every perspective and leave nothing to hide behind.

Reading someone else’s journal is as voyeuristic and intimate as it gets because this is the totally stripped back, uninhibited self and generally never meant for anyone else’s eyes. So what happens when the author passes away? How do you prepare yourself for that as the author, knowing that your journals are going to remain after you’ve gone? What plans do you make for them, to try and stop them colouring the way people you love remember you?

the unfished journals of elizabeth d

Difficult questions to answer I think, and they are certainly ones I don’t think I could solve, but they are ones that had me thinking about the legacy I will leave behind. It may not be journals but there is always something of us left, and we can’t control the way others react to it.

The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D. centres around Kate and Elizabeth, close friends who met through the neighbourhood mothers group and lived quite close until Kate’s move to Washington.

Elizabeth passes away before the book begins, soon before the tragic 9/11 attacks in an unrelated plane crash, and the book opens almost a year later as Kate and her family head off for their family island vacation. In her will Elizabeth leaves her journals to Kate because she is fair and sensitive and would know what to do with them, except that’s far from how Kate feels about them to begin with.

The book follows Elizabeth’s life from a young teen almost to the time of her death, through her journal entries, Kate’s memories and a little bit of summarising what Kate has read without including every journal entry.

We get to know Kate quite well through her thoughts and reactions to the journals as well as what’s going on in her own head. The wake of Elizabeth’s death and 9/11 have left Kate feeling very fragile, even if she won’t admit it to anyone around her. There is so much unrest across the world that it is difficult not to panic in the desire to keep her family safe.

Kate comes to get to know herself much better, and by extension we get to know her better, as she gets to know Elizabeth better. As she puts together the memories she has of her time with Elizabeth in comparison to what she is now learning about Elizabeth in hindsight.

This is a touching story that makes us question how well you can ever know another person, can you ever know them as well as you think you do?

At the same time it demonstrates how easy it is for us to feel like we are drifting alone because no-one understands our situation when we keep so much of ourselves to ourselves in fear of rejection and judgement, only to find out later that we weren’t alone; we were all together in our solitary seas of aloneness, suffering the same fears of judgement and feeling the same aloneness.

Nichole Bernier has written a beautiful tale of the strength required to survive, to remake oneself into their own best sense of self.

It allowed me to glimpse that other side, the side where even the most together seeming mum has her moments even if she doesn’t let anyone else see it. Allowing me to feel that little less alone at moments when it’s all overwhelming and I feel like the only one that can’t cope.

I really enjoyed this thought-provoking and emotional read that takes a long look at the inner side of someone, the side people were maybe never meant to see but were offered the opportunity to understand a little better – and take a step back next time to try and see all of what’s going on.

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