Book Review: The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D, Nichole Bernier

| 6 February , 2013 | Reply

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In August of 2001, before two planes crashed into the World Trade Centre towers, another plane went down in New York. It was bound for Los Angeles and there was nothing special about this flight except it was full of everyday parents and children when it crashed within minutes of take-off. On that plane was Elizabeth Martin, mother of three, wife to David, friend to Kate and secret-keeper.

In Elizabeth’s will is a small note leaving her trunk full of journals to Kate, to do what seems right with them. Unbeknownst to Kate, Elizabeth has been an avid journal writer all her life but this is not the greatest secret Elizabeth has been keeping. Starting in Elizabeth’s teenage years, Kate spends the summer reading the journals one by one and slowly all the private details of Elizabeth’s life emerge. A traumatic childhood, years of unfulfilled dreams and the truth of her relationship with her husband.


As she reads the journals, Kate begins to realise how little she knew about her friend. Elizabeth was a bright and loving mother who seemed to be contented with her Connecticut life. The truth was that Elizabeth was a very private person and no-one, not even Kate, questioned the picture-perfect scenery of her life. Unable to confide in anyone, Elizabeth wrote everything down, her own personal confessions and confidences.

Shaken by Elizabeth’s revelations, Kate begins to think on the secrets we keep and the lies tell we tell by omission to the people we love, even those we have chosen to spend our lives with. As she becomes absorbed by the journals and the secrets they reveal, Kate begins to question her own choices on work and family. Shaken out of her feeling of security not only by Elizabeth’s revelations but by the plane crashes and terrorist acts that hit home how temporary our lives can be. Shaken and confused, she cannot confide in her husband who does not understand her fears and frustrations. Like Elizabeth, Kate becomes the keeper of secret thoughts and fears.

The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D is a novel about how we communicate with the people we love. At what point does not-telling become concealment or deceit? What right do we have to keep information from people so as not to hurt them? If you only show part of yourself to those around you, are you lying to them? How much of ourselves do we really want to share?

The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D is an absorbing story about secret selves and relationships. It’s a great look into the lives of two women and the choices – some easy, some very hard – that each makes over the decades. The novel is long-term writer Nicole Bernier’s first novel and it is a engrossing mystery and a bitter-sweet look at life’s twists of fate.

Available now: Allen & Unwin RRP$27.99


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