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KxBurns
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Audrey and Joel

 

I've put Audrey and Joel together because their relationship is so central to the book and I'd like to discuss them as a unit. What drew them together in 1962 and what has kept them together for forty years? How would you describe the dynamics of their marriage?

 

Let's also discuss them as individuals. What makes Audrey tick? What do you think is the source of her harshness? What are her redeeming qualities? Were there particular moments in the novel that you felt conveyed the essence of Audrey? How does she change over the course of the story?

 

What about Joel? Do you think he is the lion memorialized by Audrey at the end; or a flawed human who has failed to live up to his ideals; or a complete hypocrite? Is he all three?...

 

What are some of the things that seem important to Joel, or that aggravate and upset him, in Chapter 1, right before his stroke? How does this view correspond with Joel as his family and friends perceive him?
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BDonnelly
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Re: Audrey and Joel

I really liked the character of Audrey - she was so mean and vocal about it.  But I think she lived a life of lies and facades.  She lived her whole life for Joel  always in the shadows and when it turned out that their marriage was a sham (Berenice wasn't just a fling- he wrote her poetry) she cracked.  For me Joel was a little less developed and less to sink my teeth into.  I think their marriage survived for all those years because it served them both in practical ways.  She provided a home, a sounding board, family, and a righteous cheering section for him.  And Joel supplied her with the framework of a life that was ultimately just that - a framework without depth.
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dhaupt
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Re: Audrey and Joel

What drew them together, well first of course there was a physical attraction. I think Audrey thought of Joel as a way out of her life of drudgery with little future, but I think she also saw him as a kindred spirit who looked at politics the same way she did.

It's hard to for me to understand the dynamics of Joel and Audrey's marriage without Joel's participation, obviously it wasn't perfect but it's hard for me to know if Joel was always a philanderer because of Audrey and how she was or was it just in his nature. If I had to guess I'd say it was in his nature basing that on what Audrey said later in the book about the affairs starting only months after the marriage. I found Audrey very dependent even though she tried to hide it with her attitude.

What makes Audrey tick - I think she is still insecure even after all this time and she hides it with her rude behavior. I think as a parent she can be summed up by what she told Jean in the middle part of the book how she felt that with Lenny she had a clean slate because she was his adoptive parent and he couldn't have inherited any bad or good genes from either her or Joel where as in her own children she found her own faults.

Audrey was and still remains a mystery to me, her about face in the end confused me and even though I empathized with her I think she stunk as a parent, as a wife who knows we weren't really given a change to see her through Joel's eyes. 

I think you would have to separate Joel into two parts

1) as an activist and a lawyer I think he was a great man,  I think he helped a lot of people who wouldn't have otherwise been helped.

2) as a husband and family man I would say he was a failure 

But even in calling Joel a failure as a husband and father I have to admit to you that I really liked him and I can't tell you why except that I really didn't like Audrey. 

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LUVS2READ08
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Re: Audrey and Joel

Audrey and Joel had a 40 year marriage that seemed to be strong enough to handle everything.  From affairs to drug addiction.  The true  reality of their marriage was slowly destroying Audrey.  To deal with everything, Audrey created a false reality to deal with it all.  At one point Audrey tells Rosa "You want to know what I'd do if the truth revealed itself to me and it wasn't the truth I wanted to find? I'd reject it"  To me this is how Audrey dealt with the realties of the affairs in her marriage.  Even at the end of the book when Audrey is speaking at Joel's funeral, Audrey reinvents the history of her,Joel and Berenice, and in the end creates a false view of that marriage that best suits her and her family.
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KxBurns
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Re: Audrey and Joel


dhaupt wrote:

[edited]

I think you would have to separate Joel into two parts

1) as an activist and a lawyer I think he was a great man,  I think he helped a lot of people who wouldn't have otherwise been helped.

2) as a husband and family man I would say he was a failure 

But even in calling Joel a failure as a husband and father I have to admit to you that I really liked him and I can't tell you why except that I really didn't like Audrey. 


I agree that, for all his faults, Joel is somehow the more appealing of the two. I think it's wonderful how Heller is able to imbue Joel with such magnetism, even though he spends most of the novel in a coma.

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KxBurns
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Re: Audrey and Joel

[ Edited ]

LUVS2READ08 wrote:
Audrey and Joel had a 40 year marriage that seemed to be strong enough to handle everything.  From affairs to drug addiction.  The true  reality of their marriage was slowly destroying Audrey.  To deal with everything, Audrey created a false reality to deal with it all.  At one point Audrey tells Rosa "You want to know what I'd do if the truth revealed itself to me and it wasn't the truth I wanted to find? I'd reject it"  To me this is how Audrey dealt with the realties of the affairs in her marriage.  Even at the end of the book when Audrey is speaking at Joel's funeral, Audrey reinvents the history of her,Joel and Berenice, and in the end creates a false view of that marriage that best suits her and her family.

You're absolutely right to highlight this statement by Audrey, Luvstoread. In my opinion, it is the most revealing thing Audrey says throughout the whole book!

Message Edited by KxBurns on 10-20-2008 05:23 PM
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Rosei
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Re: Audrey and Joel

I think Audrey and Joel's marriage was all about social appearance. They kept a mutual living of lies and found it worth. They wanted, through their family, expressing a reality of comprehension and faith, but what they created was a fable. They had beliefs that were only a way of carrying them on and suffocated true emotions and feelings. In my own view, they created beliefs just to hide their fear of living the real life.
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nhbooklover
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Re: Audrey and Joel

I find it a little strange that when Audrey and Joel met it happened so suddenly. I mean in what reality do two people meet at a party one night, and the next day he goes and meets her parents and then he asks her to go back to the States with him. When do things like that happen? Even in the 60's?

   I didn't really like Audrey. So was a little to brass for me. Too forward, and a little rude. I couldn't get over the way she talked to Karla and was always putting her down.

      Joel, on the other hand, seems like a more real person. In the first chapter it is evident that he has come to like things the way he likes them, and that's how things should be. He doesn't like the fact that Audrey's relatives are visiting and are in the kitchen when he wakes up in the morning. They are disrupting his normal morning routine and he doesn't like it at all.  

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flyjo9
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Re: Audrey and Joel

You know, first chapter,  London, 1962, almost turned me off the book.  It asked me to suspend belief in a way and agree with a previous comment that one doesn't usually meeet a person at a party, visit the family  home the next day  anad then suggest that  they  marry.  It didn't make sense, unless I were to judge Joel hs a very impulsive and rash thinker.  It was just unsettling.

I think Audrey surprised me as well,  being so ready to be intimate and to initiate that intimacy.  On the other hand, Zoe Heller may have been laying out a rough draft of character for the reader.

Audrey's willingness to go to New York was not a surprise-her life was so unhappy and dismal.  Nonetheless, she had a quality that showed her bit of virtue-she seemed unashamed of her parents and visited them on a regular basis. 

We do, indeed, get hints of who these people are.

 

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flyjo9
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Re: Audrey and Joel

I meant to say "I agree with the comment.."-sorry.
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MSaff
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Re: Audrey and Joel

Hi Everyone,

 

  The book grabbed me right from the start.  I believe that Audrey and Joel's relationship is initially of admiration on Audrey's part towards Joel.  He is the rebel in the eyes of many, but for Audrey she finds herself immediately falling for him.  As for the dynamics of their marriage, they have a strong marriage, with Joel taking care of his wife and family, while practicing law.  Audrey takes care of the household and children and supports Joel in all his endeavors. 

 

  What makes Audrey tick?  My best guess is Joel and her responsibility to the home.  I think that the source of her harshness is her insecurities.  At first the language Audrey used when she was angry, bothered me, but as I read on, I think I saw why she was the way she was.  She was totally in love with Joel and wanted to support him in every way.

 

  Joel on the other hand was a little hard to describe, only because he has the stroke and goes into a coma, early in the novel.  As I read the third party descriptions of Joel and his life, you do get an understand of what he was all about.  A man with definite ideals, politically, and a deep desire to help those in need, (his law practice).

 

  At the funeral, Audrey did what I would consider the right thing.  She memorialized Joel's life.  We are all flawed in some way, but we also try to live up to our ideals.  In this way Joe did just that. 

 

 

Mike
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." Dr. Seuss
http://travelswithcarsandbooks.blogspot.com/
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Carmenere_lady
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Re: Audrey and Joel

I'm only on Chapter 6 but I couldn't help but jump in here.

 

Oh my gosh, Karen, I didn't realize it till I read your questions.  What brought Audrey and Joel together was their religion!  In the prologue p2 Audrey learns that Joel is Jewish and on pg8 Joel asks his friend Tom "Is she one of mine?", "What" says Tom, Joel replys "Is she Jewish?"  Funny how religion brought them together and together they turn away from it.  Makes me wonder if together they will return to it or perhaps one but not the other.

 

I think both of them are opportunists.  Joel quickly has Audrey's dad thinking that he is some kind of big time American businessman and chooses not to correct him.  Audrey, as others have mentioned, was quick to take Joel up on his so called offer to marry her.

 

Joel seems to grandstand abit.  It seems he feels it's very noble to stoop down to help  those beneath him and who are not like him. 

 

I would say that A & J have been so wrapped up in themselves and their causes that they neglected the community that counts the most, their children.  I only have to ditto what others have said about the kids.

 

I don't like A's language, hautiness, her attitude to those who don't seem to fit her mold, like Dr. Wu for example.   For now, I've classified her as an ignorant b****, that may change.  She ought to be careful how she speaks to Daniel (whom I am not yet sure fits into the story) for you just never know who you're talking to.

 

 


KxBurns wrote:
 

I've put Audrey and Joel together because their relationship is so central to the book and I'd like to discuss them as a unit. What drew them together in 1962 and what has kept them together for forty years? How would you describe the dynamics of their marriage?

 

Let's also discuss them as individuals. What makes Audrey tick? What do you think is the source of her harshness? What are her redeeming qualities? Were there particular moments in the novel that you felt conveyed the essence of Audrey? How does she change over the course of the story?

 

What about Joel? Do you think he is the lion memorialized by Audrey at the end; or a flawed human who has failed to live up to his ideals; or a complete hypocrite? Is he all three?...

 

What are some of the things that seem important to Joel, or that aggravate and upset him, in Chapter 1, right before his stroke? How does this view correspond with Joel as his family and friends perceive him?

 

Lynda

"I think of literature.....as a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but will never reach."
The Uncommon Reader


"You've been running around naked in the stacks again, haven't you?"
"Um, maybe."
The Time Traveler's Wife

It is with books as with men; a very small number play a great part.
Voltaire
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KxBurns
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Re: Audrey and Joel

Nhbooklover, flyjo9, I see what you both mean about the spontaneity of Audrey and Joel's courtship. But I think we do get clues later in the novel about why Audrey, at least, acted so rashly. After getting to know the Audrey of the "present" (the book's present, that is), it's not hard to imagine that the Audrey of 1962 saw in Joel a potential guru, someone who offered her not just a more glamorous life but also one driven by ideals and causes that seemed exciting and important. That's my take, anyway!

 

Is there anything we learn about Joel over the course of the novel that sheds light on his impetuous actions upon meeting Audrey?

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Laurie22
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Re: Audrey and Joel

I've got to agree with you-I thought Audrey was incredibly insecure and I really disliked her.  I kept waiting for her to grow on me, to be comical, but it just didn't happen.  Overall, I liked the book.  The story was interesting and kept me reading but I liked the supporting characters better than the main ones.  I think I would've like to get to know Joel a little better.  He was a little more interesting.  Audrey was so insecure she was depressing.  I'm not sure I bought her turnabout at the end either, it didn't really fit her character.  

 

 

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KxBurns
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Re: Audrey and Joel


MSaff wrote:

Hi Everyone,

 

  The book grabbed me right from the start.  I believe that Audrey and Joel's relationship is initially of admiration on Audrey's part towards Joel.  He is the rebel in the eyes of many, but for Audrey she finds herself immediately falling for him.  As for the dynamics of their marriage, they have a strong marriage, with Joel taking care of his wife and family, while practicing law.  Audrey takes care of the household and children and supports Joel in all his endeavors. 

 

  What makes Audrey tick?  My best guess is Joel and her responsibility to the home.  I think that the source of her harshness is her insecurities.  At first the language Audrey used when she was angry, bothered me, but as I read on, I think I saw why she was the way she was.  She was totally in love with Joel and wanted to support him in every way.

 

  Joel on the other hand was a little hard to describe, only because he has the stroke and goes into a coma, early in the novel.  As I read the third party descriptions of Joel and his life, you do get an understand of what he was all about.  A man with definite ideals, politically, and a deep desire to help those in need, (his law practice).

 

  At the funeral, Audrey did what I would consider the right thing.  She memorialized Joel's life.  We are all flawed in some way, but we also try to live up to our ideals.  In this way Joe did just that. 

 

 


 

Hi Mike! Great to have you back for another First Look :smileyhappy:  Terrific observations.

 

Your comment about Audrey and Joel's marriage makes me wonder, though -- how strong can a marriage be if it is ALL about just one of the partners? And could Audrey's harsh politicism -- which seems to increase as Joel's mellows out -- be an attempt to empower herself in the relationship? In a way, she becomes the steward of the political philosophy that the couple once shared; the expert where she used to be the student. If this is her goal, does it work? 

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KxBurns
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Re: Audrey and Joel


Laurie22 wrote:

I've got to agree with you-I thought Audrey was incredibly insecure and I really disliked her.  I kept waiting for her to grow on me, to be comical, but it just didn't happen.  Overall, I liked the book.  The story was interesting and kept me reading but I liked the supporting characters better than the main ones.  I think I would've like to get to know Joel a little better.  He was a little more interesting.  Audrey was so insecure she was depressing.  I'm not sure I bought her turnabout at the end either, it didn't really fit her character.  

 

 


True, Audrey's turnaround doesn't fit her character if we believe it's done purely out of magnanimity. But what if we look at it more like Jean does, that Audrey is transforming herself into the noble widow and seizing control of Joel's legacy?

 

By acknowledging Berenice, Audrey ensures that she herself will be the sole keeper of the flame; by bringing Joel's mistress into the tribe of which she is the undisputed leader, she robs her rival of power. This might be a very cynical interpretation, though! What do you all think? 

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kiakar
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Re: Audrey and Joel

It did make it somewhat difficult to understand Joel's character in all this. He didn't live too much longer after the first chapter. So it is difficult to really know him that well. He was very stubborn as to what he believed was the right thing to do. To me He was the believer and Audrey was the believer in  him. Audrey harked on her children too much, maybe taking her frustrations out on them and not Joel. It seemed she wanted his life to be perfect.
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LucyintheOC
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Re: Audrey and Joel

I felt just like flyjo9, the first 20 pages really put me off the book. But then the author moves from the past to the present and introduces us to the current Audrey and it's her character that really drew me in. Even though I coudln't stand her. It was her character that initially propelled me into the book and kept me reading until all the wonderful ancellary characters started fleshing out the book. I was greatful to the author for finding a way to grab my interest because I think this is a teriffic book and I wouldn't have wanted to miss reading it.

 

As for Audrey, I have/had absolutely no sympathy for her. I thought she was a self-serving, very-small-wannabe-of-a-person, from the first chapter until the very end--though, initially (the 1962 character) was someone I didn't dislike. I was totally surprised at what I saw as the difference between Audrey 1962 and Audrey 2002. I didn't see it coming and I wondered what happen to her inbetwen to make her that way...or was this really who she was to begin with?

 

As for their marriage--what can you expect from a character like Joel? I don't think it mattered to him if he was married to Audrey, herself the person, or some other woman who he might have assessed had the same characteristics as she and met his sexual needs also. I think she was kind of like an interchangeable part in his life. The reason they had stayed together so long is because she didn't interfer or hinder him in his persuits (whether or not she enhanced him, I don't know if I feel like I can say, after reading the book). I think when he met her, he was probably ready to have something representing permanance in his life (marriage, children) but had, obviously, no intention of being personally restrained by either of these institutions. If Audrey had wanted something different or more from him than he was willing to give her, I think she would have been gone in two shakes because Joel was very self-absorbed and if she no longer "fit" into his life, then she'd be history.

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chana56
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Re: Audrey and Joel

One thing that struck me as I read was the total lack of real communication between Audrey and Joel.  At the beginning, neither one had any sort of insight into what the other was feeling, or understanding what was motivating the other.  Joel was baffled by it, I think Audrey was terrified and trying to hide it at any cost. I agree with the comment that it was their religion that initially drew them together, although they both rejected the religious rituals for idealistic or political reasons.  Perhaps they saw their religion as a common fate, rather than a common faith.

 

As they move forward forty years, I still don't see communication.  I see a life defined by shared political beliefs, but it's like the shell they've built for themselves without going beyond it.  Their apartment has artifacts that fit in with the politics, but no sign of either personality.  (Their children also had to fit in with the politics, into the shell.)  There was definitely no poetry.  Joel was lucky enough to find someone he could share that with, perhaps the fact that Audrey never found it (and never thought to seek it??) was one of the main reasons for her bitter outlook, and one of the reasons she clung so desperately to the political ideals that defined them as a couple and her as an individual.  Joel could mellow, she couldn't.  I don't like her much, and a get impatient with her for her intolerance, but I understand her, and feel more than a little sorry for her.

 

Chana

"We don't stop laughing when we get old, we get old when we stop laughing - Anonymous
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scouturier
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Re: Audrey and Joel

It's funny how many people dislike Audrey.  Don't get me wrong, she is not my favorite person in the book, but as I go on I can't help but admire her a bit. 

 

Yes she is a royal bitch to her daughters, it seems she is better to Lenny, although so far that doesn't seem to help him much.  I guess I like how she says what she thinks.  As a person who edits their thoughts before speaking I find it refreshing to see that in a person/character.  She almost has the Scarlett O'hara complex of if I don't like it, I will think about it tomorrow, but for Audrey she just completely ignores it or finds a way to try and prove it false. 

 

I think also when you get further in the book you realize a bit why she is the way she is.  Joel's extramarital affairs have certainly taken a toll on her and how she handles things.  I mean it couldn't have been easy to marry him, move to the states and within months he is cheating.

 

Saying that, I also don't believe that there much real love between Audrey and Joel.  At least to the point in the book I am.