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Joy


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling novel with an unusual structure
In July 2010 I read Jonathan Lee's debut 'Who is Mr Satoshi' and looked forward to his 'difficult second novel'. 'Joy' has confirmed that he is not a one hit wonder. 'Mr Satoshi' asked the question can we really 'know' anyone 'Joy' covers similar ground but in a totally different way. The eponymous heroine is in a coma having plummeted 40 feet from a viewing platform in...
Published on 7 Jun 2012 by I Readalot

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tries too hard
The problem with this book is that, while it tries to be funny, while it tries to be literary, it achieves neither because it all feels so deliberate. The story's decent, yet many of the characters fail, the passage regarding Wimbledon was frankly embarrassing, and the "humour" just didn't work. It gave the impression of literary fan fiction, the type of book a Martin...
Published 21 months ago by Sigby


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling novel with an unusual structure, 7 Jun 2012
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I Readalot (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Joy (Hardcover)
In July 2010 I read Jonathan Lee's debut 'Who is Mr Satoshi' and looked forward to his 'difficult second novel'. 'Joy' has confirmed that he is not a one hit wonder. 'Mr Satoshi' asked the question can we really 'know' anyone 'Joy' covers similar ground but in a totally different way. The eponymous heroine is in a coma having plummeted 40 feet from a viewing platform in front of work colleagues on the day she is made partner of her law firm. It happened at 5pm on a Friday afternoon. Suicide, accident or something more sinister? The novel winds its way into revealing the truth using an unusual narrative structure. The first and every alternate chapter follows Joy from the Thursday night, her experiences, thoughts, memories and intentions. The other chapters are written as a form of monologue as 4 characters take turns to talk to a counsellor, the counsellor is silent but his questions become apparent from the answers given. It gave me the feeling that I was the counsellor, quietly taking notes and trying to make sense of what was being said.

These 4 characters represent different facets of Joy's life, Dennis, her husband, Peter, a colleague, her PA Barbara and fitness instructor Samir. Each colourful character has their own voice, quirks and personality, Samir suffers from OCD and Barbara believes everything will be fine if she could just visit her sister Jackie in the States. Dennis is on 'sabbatical' from the university and finds solace in books and Peter has a thing about rubber bands! We learn about Joy through them but there are pieces of the puzzle missing, things that none of them know which only come to light through Joy's personal narrative. Frequent mention is made of the whale that somehow made its way into the River Thames in 2006, the same year that a tragedy befell Joy, a tragedy that goes a long way into explaining her behaviour. The theme of colour is present from the greyness of the whale to the multitude of shades Joy tries out to decorate her house and the 4 characters colour in various aspects of Joy's life and personality. The novel opens with a situation worthy of an adult farce and although there is much humour throughout it moves into the realm of tragedy.

It is quite a complex novel although once you adapt to the structure it is not hard to read, however if you like your novels to have a straightforward linear narrative then maybe this is not for you. As well as moving between characters it also moves around in time as the characters recall their memories of Joy. The ending is strong and although unexpected, with hindsight it really does make perfect sense. I will definitely be looking forward to Lee's next novel.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprised by poetry, 8 July 2012
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This review is from: Joy (Kindle Edition)
Having read the 'blurb' I downloaded this book under the mistaken impression that it was a crime novel set in a London law firm. Joy's fall does crash straight through the carefully preserved corporate facade of Hanger, Slyde & Stein, but in fact this is a heartbreaking story with an overwhelmingly poetic and melancholic feel. It is also extremely funny. Jonathan Lee is generous with his words, an odd thing to say about a writer, but each phrase and sentence is beautifully assembled. Any part of this book can be randomly accessed and a prose poem discovered, with humour and tragedy intermingled. Jonathan Lee never produces 'auto pilot' plot driven writing.

We are given the points of view of five characters, five voices of a Greek chorus in an interwoven story that rotates around a central event. Jonathan Lee captures the unexpected arrival of disaster perfectly, those fateful minutes that turn an ordinary day into a major tragedy. The characters have no way to rewind the tape or to erase their actions. The last three monologues in particular are superb, heartfelt prose poems. There are tiny allusions to T.S. Eliot, a poet to whom I would connect Jonathan Lee. Watch this writer!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Read, 17 July 2012
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This review is from: Joy (Hardcover)
I'd really enjoyed Jonathan Lee's first novel, 'Who is Mr Satoshi?', so I was looking forward to his second. It didn't disappoint; in fact it was even better. The initial question of how and why Joy falls from a balcony in her law firm is just the start of a story that widens and deepens in its scope and ambition.

The complex characters, wry humour and gripping intertwined plotlines kept me enthralled from beginning to end. It's written with great style and erudition too. There is bleakness here - the darker sides of human nature are unsparingly depicted. But this finely wrought novel also points the way towards some sort of redemption. I can't recommend 'Joy' enough & look forward to the next one!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing, tackles a taboo subject very well..., 25 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Joy (Hardcover)
I felt this book was going to be about how hard law firms work their trainees and with some terrible stories that dispel the myth that being a lawyer is really glamorous. This book is not about that, it's so much more than that.

First of all it's worth mentioning the format of the chapters, which are set out so you are following a course of a day, and every other chapter you are privy to some characters conversations with a therapist. This book looks into the ideas of suicide and how those feelings play out and how plans for a suicide come together.

It's interesting in the therapists chapters, the reader never hears from the therapist so it can feel that the reader is the therapist as we predict the answers into the dialogue. This I think is the bit that makes you reflect more on the questions the author is subtly posing about suicide.

I wasn't expecting to like this book as the characters are hard to like and relate to in the beginning, but this is because as the chapters go on we are peeling back the layers of these characters. Learning their pasts, understanding their present and anticipating what their future will be. The style of this book is utterly refreshing and engaging, even if not joyful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable novel, 13 July 2012
This review is from: Joy (Hardcover)
This is a remarkable novel. Lee not only penetrates the depths of the tortured female mind with utter conviction and clarity, he also offers the reader a deliciously dark satire on the behaviour of some of the rich and powerful in the city of London.

Lee explores the insurmountable human price paid for treachery and lust, whilst seamlessly interweaving hilarity throughout (often at the darkest times). This beautifully tragic and comic story meant I couldn't sleep until it was finished. (Bed time on a week night- 3am!). And my goodness, what an ending...

Those with a penchant for the dark, the comic, the human, the tragic - read it today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Page turning literary Joy, 9 July 2012
This review is from: Joy (Hardcover)
I settled down with this yesterday and then ended up needing to finish it before I could go to bed. The structure is quirky, but not clunky and the story is allowed to unfold beautifully through the course of the novel. It is well written and by turns comical, satirical, honest, heart rending and horrifying. Every reader will recognise parts of themselves and their work colleagues here. Admitting which one you might most closely resemble is a whole different ball game though. But trust me, never again will I allow a rubber band ball near my desk!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book, 3 July 2012
This review is from: Joy (Hardcover)
After reading's Lee's first book and being very impressed, I am delighted to say that the second is equally captivating. The narrative style is engaging and whilst it's delightfully dark in places it's also witty and relevant. An excellent second book and would recommend to all. Really hope this book gets the recognition it deserves.
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5.0 out of 5 stars office life, 27 Aug 2013
This review is from: Joy (Hardcover)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars The title's spot on, 20 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Joy (Kindle Edition)
Really fantastic book by a relatively new author. Highly original and engrossing. Great characters and a wonderfully dark and slightly seedy storyline. Enough to reinforce any negativity you may have to working in the City!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking (loss, lawyers and a lizard), 8 Sep 2012
This review is from: Joy (Hardcover)
Having hugely enjoyed Who Is Mr Satoshi, I delved straight into Jonathan Lee's latest with high hopes. And I'm pleased to say that Lee has carried off `the difficult' second novel with aplomb. Lee tells the story of Joy Stephens - high flying corporate lawyer, racked by loss and struggling to find the sense of her `self' - using multiple points of view, all of which (apart from Joy) are in the form of counselling sessions.
This subject is a serious one - which it is tackled seriously - yet there is a sense of the absurd throughout and a tragic-comedic element to some of the set pieces. It's a difficult balancing act which Lee carries off beautifully. The passages written from Joy's POV were especially powerful. (At times the writing reminded me of David Mitchell.)
There were, for me, minor flaws. I wasn't convinced by the two main male characters at the start, and didn't necessarily buy what happened to one of them. But by a third of the way in I couldn't put it down, and the questions I have about the novel mean I will read it again. Thought-provoking stuff.
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Joy
Joy by Jonathan Lee (Hardcover - 7 Jun 2012)
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