Sunday, August 23, 2009

Review: The Diary by Eileen Goudge

While sisters Emily and Sarah are completing the heartbreaking task of emptying out their dying mother's home, they come across an old diary. It was at the bottom of a box, long forgotten in the attic of the house they both grew up in. As they crack it open, they recognize their Mom's handwriting and are astonished by the dates the diary covers, June to November 1951. Just prior to their parents wedding date of December, 1951.

As they begin to read, the women are shocked to realize that the diary reveals their mother Elizabeth's love for another man. She was all set to marry her high school sweetheart, Bob, when a young man she had known since she was five years old came back to town. A.J. is a cartoon artist at the county fair and he certainly is not the type of boy that Elizabeth's mother would approve of. He has no steady job, his parents died when he was nine and he has been abused by the relatives who raised him. He has had a hard life. Of course, Elizabeth falls for him practically on sight.

A.J. and Elizabeth begin to sneak some time together, carefully avoiding the prying eyes of their small town. When a fire erupts near their rendezvous spot, A.J. doesn't hesitate to jump in to help fight the blaze. His quick presence on the scene throws suspicion on him and he is arrested for the crime. Elizabeth has no choice, she admits to Bob that she has been seeing A.J. and then she goes to the police and provides him with the alibi that he needs to prove his innocence.

Emily and Sarah are shocked to their cores as they read the events in the diary. Did they never really know their parents? They had seemed so happy together, so completely content. It is overwhelming to discover this hidden past that they had no idea existed. What happened to A.J.? If Elizabeth loved him enough to ruin her reputation for his sake, why didn't they get married? How could their Dad have forgiven her so completely as to never once hint at what had happened? They can't ask their Mom, she is unconscious and gravely ill. So, they resign themselves to not knowing, to always wondering what happened. Until an unexpected event reveals something wonderful.

This was a joyful book that I read in one sitting, like Emily and Sarah did in the book, because I just had to find out what happened. It is an excellent combination of tender romance and complex emotional drama that I found to be intensely satisfying. Indeed, this book is an eye opening reminder of the stories and history contained in each elderly twinkling eye. Let us not forget the valuable stories, big and small, that our elders have to pass on.

The Diary is published by Vanguard Press. ISBN 978-159315-543-8

This review was originally published at Curled Up With a Good Book.


bermudaonion said...

I love the topic this explores - do we ever really know our parents? I know my son perceives me differently than I perceive myself.

Sandra K321 said...

This isn't the type of book I normally read but after reading your review I definitely would like to.

Stephanie said...

Ooh, this is an Eileen Goudge I've never read. I love her books and will have to keep an eye out for this one, thanks! :)

Zibilee said...

I once read a book by Eileen Goudge that had a subplot involving a chocolate shop. I loved it and thought it was great, but have never been able to find it again. I forgot the title, and when I have done a search on the author and her books, I always come up empty handed. I would love to read that book again, and I think Goudge writes very engagingly.

Stephanie said...

I really liked The Diary and thought it was a really sweet romantic story. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Oh and Zibilee, the book you are thinking of is called Such Devoted Sisters. I read it years ago and enjoyed it too!!

Bob Barcelona said...

I read The Diary of Eileen Goudge last year and she is an excellent writer and I am a fan.
It is an acquired taste but she has a certain style which is great to read.

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Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.