Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Review: Joy by Jonathan Lee

‘Did she jump? Did she fall? Will she wake?’

On an ordinary Friday afternoon in the office, talented young lawyer Joy Stephens plummets forty feet onto a marble floor.

In the shadow of this baffling event, the lives of those closest to her begin to collide and change in dangerous ways. There is Dennis, her disgraced husband, who finds consolation in books; her colleague Peter, whose refuge is a mix of hedonism and hard work; Barbara, Joy's PA, who'd be content if only she could get away to New York; and Samir, Joy's hygiene-obsessed personal trainer, who escapes into exercise routines and other, stranger rituals.

In a sparkling glass office in London's Square Mile - a place bursting with flirtations, water cooler confrontations and dangerous amounts of abject boredom - each of them is forced to question what they've witnessed, and to confront past moments that have defined Joy's life, as well as their own.
Publisher: Random House UK
Publication date: June 6, 2013
Kat's Review
Reading this book was like watching a train wreck happen in slow motion, in the sense that the storyline jumps from Joy's story to the narratives of several others, drawing out the telling of Joy's tale.  We know from the start that Joy is suicidal, and that in fact she intends to take her life the following day, the day of her promotion to make partner in the law firm where she works.  The novel takes the reader through that day in a manner that some will love, and others will hate.  The chapters that follow Joy on what she intends to be her last day are interspersed with chapters featuring people from Joy's life, during their sessions with a counsellor who has been called in to help her coworkers (and her husband) cope with the aftermath of her fall.  While the chronological account of Joy's day is interesting, I would argue that the real story is the one revealed in fits and starts through the counsellor sessions. 
Although the storyline is quite different, the feel of this book reminded me a bit of The Casual Vacancy.  Selfish, self-absorbed adults are the norm, each unable to muster much concern for anyone else, with a few surprising exceptions.  The almost overwhelming dullness of the day to day lives of most of the characters is perhaps why the comparison comes to mind.
The web of secrets and lies runs deep, and it is in their unraveling that the real reasons for Joy's attempted suicide come to the surface.  The reader learns much about the true nature of the characters through their one-sided conversations with the counsellor. 
There's no doubt that the author is a talented writer.  The story is well crafted and leaves very little undone, but I found it difficult to truly connect with any of the main characters, particularly Joy.  At first I felt sympathy for her, but as time goes on, she becomes less likeable, making it more and more difficult for me to become invested in the outcome of her fall.  Although most of her coworkers were a bit tough to empathize with, her husband Dennis perhaps was the most difficult of all.  There was a malicious undercurrent to his personality that came through from the start.  Certain characters brought some levity to the book, but it was always in that cringe worthy way that occurs when someone has put their foot in their mouth without even knowing it. 
Rating: A Good Read
I wavered on the rating because while I can't say that I connected well with any of the characters, I was still interested enough in the story to keep reading, even when I had a pretty good idea of how things were going to work out.  Recommended for someone looking to read something well written and just a little different from the usual.  Certainly an author to watch.
Purchase:  AMAZON

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm. This sounds interesting, although probably not might cup of tea. I like how it follows different characters, but am not thrilled with the idea of following their dull every day lives. I can see how it would be hard to care with Joy's outcome if you struggled to connect with her character. Great review!
    -Natalie @Natflix&Books


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