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KxBurns
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Re: Audrey and Joel

[ Edited ]

MG, I like this observation about Joel and Berenice having a friendship -- that is definitely something we don't see any evidence of in the relationship between Joel and Audrey. And their spur-of-the-moment courtship certainly doesn't qualify as romance to my mind.

 

So, if the relationship that forms the center of the novel does not qualify as a friendship or a romance, what can we call it? Is it a partnership? Something else? Can a lifelong relationship be based solely on shared intellectual ideals?... 

Message Edited by KxBurns on 10-27-2008 05:06 PM
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mwinasu
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Re: Audrey and Joel

I have always had a hard time understanding why people are mean.  Thank you Kxburns,you have done me a great service.
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Jo_Bhaer
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Re: Audrey and Joel

One of the things which really intrigued me about Audrey's character is how traditional she is.  For all her extreme liberal-type views, it is clear that she was still in many ways a traditional house wife.  We see early in the book that she is expected to do the shopping and prepare Joel his breakfast before he goes to work.  And she seems to have some sexist tendencies in her attitudes toward people she encounters.  I think she has adopted the political attitudes that were expected of her but still plays an extremely traditional role, which centered completely around her husband.  I think this aspect of Audrey partly explains what she does at the end of the book when she can't let that image of her perfect family life go and has to keep up appearances that she was an ideal wife and mother, regardless of her husband's behavior.

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fordmg
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Re: Audrey and Joel


KxBurns wrote:

MG, I like this observation about Joel and Berenice having a friendship -- that is definitely something we don't see any evidence of in the relationship between Joel and Audrey. And their spur-of-the-moment courtship certainly doesn't qualify as romance to my mind.

 

So, if the relationship that forms the center of the novel does not qualify as a friendship or a romance, what can we call it? Is it a partnership? Something else? Can a lifelong relationship be based solely on shared intellectual ideals?... 

Message Edited by KxBurns on 10-27-2008 05:06 PM

 

Apparently that is what Joel and Audrey have done, but it dosn't make for an easy relationship.  I also think there are other things going on here.  They have children, they tried to be totally liberal, ie: adopting Lenny.  Maybe the family was already a "tribe" even before Audrey came up with that term at Joel's funeral.

MG

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renhair
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Re: Audrey and Joel

I didn't so much think of it as a turnaround, but rather  Audrey doing what was socially appropriate.  She wouldn't want there to be any snickers about Joel or their marriage.....

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.  

 

 


 

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renhair
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Re: Audrey and Joel

Agreed....it was kind of like watching an accident play itself out.  I kept wondering what bad thing was going to happen next and I couldn't look awayl.

 

I felt like Audrey was a very lonely person - frustrated by Joel's inability to be faithful - and she took it out on everyone around her.  It's likely she did that throughout the marriage...it would explain the weight issue, the search for belief, and Audrey's inability to bond.  

 


caite wrote:

When I read the blurb for this book after I got it, I could not remember why I had requested it. I was sure I was going to dislike these people and I find it hard to really like a book if I hate the characters.

But surprise, surprise, I found that I really did not dislike any of them...and I am totally sure why.

 

Objectively, there is little to like about them from my point of view. I disagree with their view of the world, their stand on politics and religion, how they conduct their personal lives, their relationship with each other and with their children. Yes, Audrey is nasty and a bully. I think she married Joel because she saw it as an escape, a step up. Joel...well, Joel is not someone I would want to be married to. The kids are all pretty screwed up.

And yet... I found them oddly sympathetic. Perhaps it is way the author portrays them...I am not totally sure.


 

 

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Librarian
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Re: Audrey and Joel

[ Edited ]

              I started to sympathize with Audrey when I found out her sharp persona was at first a disguise for her shyness. Eventually after Joel's infidelities and after not realizing her expectations, it became an ingrained part of her personality. But then I disliked how selfish she was about Lenny's cleaning up his act when he stayed at Jean's place to go off drugs . And then again I liked her concern over whether things were all right between Karla and Mike and telling Karla if things were not OK she didn't want her to think she had "to stick at it." That whole scene of Karla and Audrey sitting on the hospital floor eating chips is a gem.

              Audrey's  words at Joel's funeral were brilliant. By including Berenice and Jamil in the "tribe" she precluded any denigration of Joel and got to keep the part of Joel, that she wanted, alive. Now her life has purpose again as she goes forward with their foundation and its causes.

Librarian

Message Edited by Librarian on 10-29-2008 12:45 PM
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Zoe-Heller
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Re: Audrey and Joel


renhair wrote:
I didn't so much think of it as a turnaround, but rather  Audrey doing what was socially appropriate.  She wouldn't want there to be any snickers about Joel or their marriage.....

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.  

 

 

Thanks, renhair: that was precisely what I was getting at. Audrey's welcoming of Berenice into the tribe is not a redemptive act. It's a tactic - a sly way to defuse the threat that Berenice poses. My view of her behaviour at the funeral is essentially the same as Jean's: I think of Audrey as being like a priest who has lost his faith, but who is too attached to the sheltering structure of his church to own up to this publicly. Audrey commits herself to sustaining what she knows now to be myth.

 


 


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Jennd1
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Re: Audrey and Joel

I found Audrey very hard to take.  She just seemed harsh to me.  I think she creates her own world and I guess she needs to be the way she is because of the world she has created.  I think the comment about feeling freer with Lenny because he is not her biological child.  I think that did affect how she interacted with Lenny on some level.  I wish we had seen more of Joel even if it was through flashbacks.  I didn't get a very good impression of him before he stopped being an active character.  As a unit I think they complimented each other in some ways and detracted from each other in others like most married couples.  In their own way they struck me as typical.

 

Jenn

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Jennifer_Barth
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Re: Audrey and Joel

I'm glad to hear that you ultimately enjoyed the book.

 

I have to confess that I'm surprised to hear so many comments about the "likeability" of the characters. I've never counted that quality as a prerequisite for enjoying or appreciating a book. I can't say that I "liked" Lily Bart, but I count The House as Mirth as one of my favorite novels of all time. Jane Eyre is hard to take (particularly as a child), as she is the first to admit, but she is one of the most fantastic characters in literature.

 

I wonder if this is a relatively recent phenomenon -- the idea of liking or disliking characters? I would be interested to hear what others think.


dhaupt wrote:


caite wrote:

When I read the blurb for this book after I got it, I could not remember why I had requested it. I was sure I was going to dislike these people and I find it hard to really like a book if I hate the characters.

But surprise, surprise, I found that I really did not dislike any of them...and I am totally sure why.

 

Objectively, there is little to like about them from my point of view. I disagree with their view of the world, their stand on politics and religion, how they conduct their personal lives, their relationship with each other and with their children. Yes, Audrey is nasty and a bully. I think she married Joel because she saw it as an escape, a step up. Joel...well, Joel is not someone I would want to be married to. The kids are all pretty screwed up.

And yet... I found them oddly sympathetic. Perhaps it is way the author portrays them...I am not totally sure.


You know that's exactly how I felt when I finished the book I kept scratching my head asking myself why I thought it was such a good book when I didn't like anybody in it. So I had to attribute it to the fact that the author was that good.

 


 


dhaupt wrote:

caite wrote:

When I read the blurb for this book after I got it, I could not remember why I had requested it. I was sure I was going to dislike these people and I find it hard to really like a book if I hate the characters.

But surprise, surprise, I found that I really did not dislike any of them...and I am totally sure why.

 

Objectively, there is little to like about them from my point of view. I disagree with their view of the world, their stand on politics and religion, how they conduct their personal lives, their relationship with each other and with their children. Yes, Audrey is nasty and a bully. I think she married Joel because she saw it as an escape, a step up. Joel...well, Joel is not someone I would want to be married to. The kids are all pretty screwed up.

And yet... I found them oddly sympathetic. Perhaps it is way the author portrays them...I am not totally sure.


You know that's exactly how I felt when I finished the book I kept scratching my head asking myself why I thought it was such a good book when I didn't like anybody in it. So I had to attribute it to the fact that the author was that good.

 


 


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jlcardwell
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Re: Audrey and Joel


Jennifer_Barth wrote:

I'm glad to hear that you ultimately enjoyed the book.

 

I have to confess that I'm surprised to hear so many comments about the "likeability" of the characters. I've never counted that quality as a prerequisite for enjoying or appreciating a book. I can't say that I "liked" Lily Bart, but I count The House as Mirth as one of my favorite novels of all time. Jane Eyre is hard to take (particularly as a child), as she is the first to admit, but she is one of the most fantastic characters in literature.

 

I wonder if this is a relatively recent phenomenon -- the idea of liking or disliking characters? I would be interested to hear what others think.


 

 

I think there's a difference between 'not liking' the characters and actually disliking them.  I don't have to be crazy about a character to enjoy a book, and I can certainly completely disagree with their actions, but when they're actively unpleasant and dislikeable I have a difficult time with the book, perhaps because I cannot connect with any of them in any way.  I really hated Audrey and didn't care much for any of the rest of her family, which made me not want to come back to the book because I had no investment in or sympathy for any of the characters.  Perhaps the key is in the investment.  There are characters I haven't liked or have even 'loved to hate' that I have been invested in, but the characters in "The Believers" were rude and self-centered in a way I did not find endearing at all, and I had no investment in them whatsoever.  


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Bonnie824
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Re: Audrey and Joel


Jennifer_Barth wrote:

I'm glad to hear that you ultimately enjoyed the book.

 

I have to confess that I'm surprised to hear so many comments about the "likeability" of the characters. I've never counted that quality as a prerequisite for enjoying or appreciating a book. I can't say that I "liked" Lily Bart, but I count The House as Mirth as one of my favorite novels of all time. Jane Eyre is hard to take (particularly as a child), as she is the first to admit, but she is one of the most fantastic characters in literature.

 

I wonder if this is a relatively recent phenomenon -- the idea of liking or disliking characters? I would be interested to hear what others think.


For me it is neccessary that I like at least one of the main characters to enjoy a book. I am 51 and have always felt that way with children's books, YA books, and now adult books. I don't particulalry like any of the main characters in this one, although some of the side characters (Khaled, Hannah) I like.
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KxBurns
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Re: Audrey and Joel


Jo_Bhaer wrote:

One of the things which really intrigued me about Audrey's character is how traditional she is.  For all her extreme liberal-type views, it is clear that she was still in many ways a traditional house wife.  We see early in the book that she is expected to do the shopping and prepare Joel his breakfast before he goes to work.  And she seems to have some sexist tendencies in her attitudes toward people she encounters.  I think she has adopted the political attitudes that were expected of her but still plays an extremely traditional role, which centered completely around her husband.  I think this aspect of Audrey partly explains what she does at the end of the book when she can't let that image of her perfect family life go and has to keep up appearances that she was an ideal wife and mother, regardless of her husband's behavior.


Absolutely! I've been hoping someone would bring this up. Although I doubt she would ever admit it, I think Audrey has some very conventional ideas about gender roles. There are overtones of this in her reaction to Susan's (Lenny's biological mother) lesbian relationship as a topic of conversation. Even though Audrey takes exception to it on the grounds that Susan moves the conversation away from Joel too quickly, her framing the relationship as "sordid" indicates a less than liberal attitude. 

 

Can anyone pinpoint some more examples of this? I feel like there were better ones but I can't locate them at the moment :smileyhappy:

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Carmenere_lady
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Re: Audrey and Joel

We've discussed Audrey's personality change since she married Joel but I gave some thought to Joel and realized that he changed as well.  At least in the case that he became interested in Audrey when he discovered that she was Jewish as well.  Why was that important to him 40 years ago only to fall away from religion altogether?  Mmmmm.  I don't see that we're given any clues into that other than his mother's distaste for religion in her life.  I can't forget Joels line in London, 1962?  "Is she one of mine?"......."Is she Jewish?"  Why would that have mattered to 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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Zoe-Heller
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Re: Audrey and Joel


Carmenere_lady wrote:
We've discussed Audrey's personality change since she married Joel but I gave some thought to Joel and realized that he changed as well.  At least in the case that he became interested in Audrey when he discovered that she was Jewish as well.  Why was that important to him 40 years ago only to fall away from religion altogether?  Mmmmm.  I don't see that we're given any clues into that other than his mother's distaste for religion in her life.  I can't forget Joels line in London, 1962?  "Is she one of mine?"......."Is she Jewish?"  Why would that have mattered to him?
Well, Jewishness is not just a religion: it's a cultural identity. When Joel first inquires whether Audrey is "one of mine", he's trying to establish whether or not she is part of his tribe - just as a Frenchman might enquire whether another party-goer is French.  Both of them are outsiders at that party and their shared identity as Jews is a point of contact.  

 


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Carmenere_lady
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Re: Audrey and Joel

Hi Ms. Heller,

I  understand and respect why Joel was looking for a connection to Audrey, it's just that it seems out of character for Joel to look toward his heritage for it.  Politics could have been common ground, Robeson another or Martin's comments.  When Joel brings up his cultural identity I thought, at that point in the novel, that their joint Jewishness would play a bigger role in their lives.  Perhaps Joel used his Jewishness when it benefited him.  I admire your writing and I would never consider second guessing your reasons - I just thought it kind of off the wall that Joel mentions it - it's as if it's important to him. Other than that one little thing, I think The Believers is a wonderful novel.  Sometimes I see myself, friends or relatives in your characters and that's what makes them so real and the story more personal.


Zoe-Heller wrote:


Carmenere_lady wrote:
We've discussed Audrey's personality change since she married Joel but I gave some thought to Joel and realized that he changed as well.  At least in the case that he became interested in Audrey when he discovered that she was Jewish as well.  Why was that important to him 40 years ago only to fall away from religion altogether?  Mmmmm.  I don't see that we're given any clues into that other than his mother's distaste for religion in her life.  I can't forget Joels line in London, 1962?  "Is she one of mine?"......."Is she Jewish?"  Why would that have mattered to him?
Well, Jewishness is not just a religion: it's a cultural identity. When Joel first inquires whether Audrey is "one of mine", he's trying to establish whether or not she is part of his tribe - just as a Frenchman might enquire whether another party-goer is French.  Both of them are outsiders at that party and their shared identity as Jews is a point of contact.  

 


 

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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Zoe-Heller
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Re: Audrey and Joel

Well thank you for saying such nice things. I hope I didn't sound too defensive on the subject of Joel and his Jewishness. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Jews, even utterly secular, non-religious Jews, often feel an instantaneous tribal connection with other Jews - simply by virtue of their shared minority status, their shared history of oppression, their shared love of bialys. I'm not sure non-believers from Christian backgrounds feel this connection with other Christians. Do any of the Jewish readers in this book club know what I'm talking about?


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thewanderingjew
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Re: Audrey and Joel


Zoe-Heller wrote:
Well thank you for saying such nice things. I hope I didn't sound too defensive on the subject of Joel and his Jewishness. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Jews, even utterly secular, non-religious Jews, often feel an instantaneous tribal connection with other Jews - simply by virtue of their shared minority status, their shared history of oppression, their shared love of bialys. I'm not sure non-believers from Christian backgrounds feel this connection with other Christians. Do any of the Jewish readers in this book club know what I'm talking about?

You are absolutely right about the connection Jews feel toward each other. When I meet someone for the first time and find out that the person is Jewish, it is a very joyful experience. I get a warm feeling of kinship and an immediate feeling of acceptance.
I love to try and find out if we know someone in common. I ask where they were brought up, where they went to school, where they raised their families, where they live now. It is a comfortable conversation because we often have the same cultural experiences in our past regarding upbringing, food, celebrations, education and vacations to name a few so we understand each other, right away. There is usually no awkwardness.
Because there were only a few places that Jews could live and be accepted, we all wound up living near each in ghetto like neighborhoods. Finding a friend in common is a frequent occurrence. The phenomenon that is called "six degrees of separation" in the Christian world is called "Jewish Geography" for us. When we find a lantzman, we find a friend and perhaps it makes us feel more accepted, like we legitimately belong somewhere. It is like finding a relative.

twj

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Carmenere_lady
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Re: Audrey and Joel

[ Edited ]

Thanks to both of you.................I get it now.  It's like when you meet someone who went to your high school or lived in the old neighborhood.  I also see bonds like this with people of other minorities and feel a twinge of jealousy at their easy relationships.

Oh, one other thing, I went to a deli for dinner the other night and saw a sign advertising their bialys.  Of course they were all out by 6pm but now that I know what they are I'm heading there in the morning to buy some.


thewanderingjew wrote:


Zoe-Heller wrote:
Well thank you for saying such nice things. I hope I didn't sound too defensive on the subject of Joel and his Jewishness. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Jews, even utterly secular, non-religious Jews, often feel an instantaneous tribal connection with other Jews - simply by virtue of their shared minority status, their shared history of oppression, their shared love of bialys. I'm not sure non-believers from Christian backgrounds feel this connection with other Christians. Do any of the Jewish readers in this book club know what I'm talking about?

You are absolutely right about the connection Jews feel toward each other. When I meet someone for the first time and find out that the person is Jewish, it is a very joyful experience. I get a warm feeling of kinship and an immediate feeling of acceptance.
I love to try and find out if we know someone in common. I ask where they were brought up, where they went to school, where they raised their families, where they live now. It is a comfortable conversation because we often have the same cultural experiences in our past regarding upbringing, food, celebrations, education and vacations to name a few so we understand each other, right away. There is usually no awkwardness.
Because there were only a few places that Jews could live and be accepted, we all wound up living near each in ghetto like neighborhoods. Finding a friend in common is a frequent occurrence. The phenomenon that is called "six degrees of separation" in the Christian world is called "Jewish Geography" for us. When we find a lantzman, we find a friend and perhaps it makes us feel more accepted, like we legitimately belong somewhere. It is like finding a relative.

twj


 

Message Edited by Carmenere_lady on 11-03-2008 06:10 AM
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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EJD0626
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Re: Audrey and Joel

I loved this book but really disliked all of the characters. I wish we could have seen more of a characterization of Joel and his marriage to Audrey. We don't really see anything that discusses the type of relationship those two shared. Audrey was incredibly hard to like--I hated the way she treated her poor daughters and enabled Lenny.