Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Jonathan Lee

William Heinemann, 2012

Joy Stephens is a young successful lawyer. She is going to become a partner in a law firm and on that day before her welcoming speech falling from a height of several tens of meters on the marble floor. Throughout the novel, we will live this day, the usual Friday, along with Joy, trying to find out why the woman fell from a height. In parallel, in the even chapters, the author presents the monologues of several people who knew Joy, in which they will slightly open the secrets of their relationship with Joy and the secrets of the firm, where Joy worked. Only if the chapters, tracing the movement of Joy on that fateful day, are written in third person and in real time, the chapters from point of view of the other heroes are written in first person and are already taking place after the fall of the woman.

The night before Friday Joy returnes late from work and finds that the door to their house is not closed. She lives with her husband Dennis, a teacher and a writer. Above she hears the strange sounds, and Joey is afraid that the house is likely to have been penetrated by the robbers. When she cautiously takes the stairs, she finds her husband having sex with a call girl. Joy, however, is not angry. As explained in later chapters, every Thursday Joy and Dennis call a prostitute to have threesome. This way a couple saves their relationship out of boredom and routine. That evening, Joy was delayed and did not warn about the cancellation of the meeting, so Dennis decided that since a prostitute had already arrived, it was necessary to use her service.

«Joy» is a novel about how hard it to get pleasure in our lives. There are no happy people in the novel. All they are looking for joy out of life, but searching for something rare ends with success. Joy, the heroine of the novel, despite all the hardships, too, was looking for some joy, some clue that would give her a reason to linger in this world. Was looking for until something clicked inside her: the search is over, and happiness is not found, it only will be worse.

The baroque structure of the book really gives the result here and leads to success. Gradually, from different angles, from different times, different people’s point of view develops a complete picture of how a person comes to a point. Despair, fatigue, uselessness, disappointment in oneself and others do not pile up at once, and the portions add daily in thin layers, until eventually the total layer does not press down so that there is no escape, it's time.

Especially gratifying to see how Jonathan Lee uses an unreliable narrator. Buried in the depths of despair, tormented character of this tragicomedy gradually cease to distinguish between her own thoughts and desires with reality. Was the nephew lost due to the fact that Joy was distracted by Peter, or did Joy really check her email? Did she throw the phone in a taxi driver, which is why he lost control, or to blame the driver himself, exceeding the speed? Had Joy fall from weakness, losing consciousness, or in her head was born in the last minute a plan, plan C, of suicide in the face of hundreds of colleagues?

"Damaged goods", Joy asks a reader to trust her and understand her. See, I have suffered so much, do I not deserve to go? Look who's around me, am I going to live among them all? Lee is so enchanting with his story that we really want to believe her. Even when in the monologues-chapters, we learned the facts, calling into question some parts of Joy’s narrative; we still want to trust her. After all, the company employs liars and traitors, says Barbara, Joy’s co-worker.

This book is full of bitter and rather comic moments. The office world is always an object of satire, and the British see and understand that. Barbara gets angry when she before retirement receives the oil bath as a present. Peter’s, dressed as a superhero, having sex in the locker room. Samir’s hunting for runaway lizard. Joy, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, asks the taxi driver to tell her anything about Seneca. You will not be laughing out loud reading those scenes, but they complete the picture. Even when someone on your eyes is falling from the top floor, life does not stop for those who have not fallen. All are shocked and are undergoing rehabilitation, but office life flows.

Sometimes Lee makes his characters talk too long, but in general he keeps the proportions. His characters speak in various ways: reading the monologues-chapters, you unmistakably recognize the voice of Barbara, or Dennis, or Peter.

You should feel this book. And anyone who can do that will get great pleasure.

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