16 April 2012

Book Review: Joy by Jonathan Lee

Title: Joy
Author: Jonathan Lee
Publisher: William Heinemann (an imprint of the Random House Group)
Format: Proof copy
308 pages
Genre: Fiction
Source: Proof copy provided by Random House Books

Set in London's Square Mile, Joy by Jonathan Lee, is a darkly witty and quietly powerful novel about the consequences of one fateful Friday afternoon at a busy law firm.

The central character, Joy Stephens, is a successful young lawyer working for Hanger, Slyde & Stein, a large law firm in London. After ten years, she is about to be welcomed into the partnership.. As Joy begins to make a speech from a viewing platform on the second floor to her colleagues watching from the ground-floor function space, Joy suddenly tumbles over the rail in front of her and plummets forty feet onto the floor.

Did Joy fall or did she jump? Does she survive?

The reader learns the answers as the perspective switches between characters and details about Joy's life and those closest to her are gradually revealed. The shocking incident has profound repercussions for Joy's husband, Dennis; her colleague, Peter; her personal assistant, Barbara; and her personal trainer, Samir. As each of them are asked to give their own view about what happened and analyze their relationship with Joy, they reflect on events leading up to the shocking incident.

The alternating viewpoints provides short, sharp glimpses of each character's inner thoughts so that the reader gradually learns about their secrets, regrets, and dreams. Eventually, these revelations come together and the reader understands more about why the characters behave as they do.

The author cleverly leads the reader to make assumptions which keep changing as the perspective shifts from each character and more details are revealed. There are several unexpected turns in the story before leading to a surprise at the end. The intricate plot, authentic characters and melancholy mood, add up to an unforgettable story which is quietly disturbing and leaves a lasting impression. At turns, funny and sad, this juxtaposition of emotions made me laugh out loud one minute and feel teary the next.

Once again*, Jonathan Lee triumphs with a dazzling novel that provides a thought-provoking analysis of how actions and reactions can ultimately have a profound impact on everyone involved.The author also provides an accurate portrayal of the corporate world with its devious office politics and the simmering tensions between employees and management.

Joy by Jonathan Lee is an unforgettable story with compelling characters and powerful themes.

Highly recommended.

*Read my review of Jonathan Lee's first novel, Who is Mr Satoshi?


  1. Sounds very different from Mr. Satoshi but definitely a book I'd love to read. Nice review!

  2. Hello Judith,

    Yes, Joy is very different from Who is Mr Satoshi?

    I think both books are excellent.

    I''m pleased you like my review. Thank you!