"Happy People Read Books & Drink Coffee" Agnes Martin-Lugand
Ok, it was obviously the title that attracted me to this book! I mean, which bibliomaniac couldn't resist such a line! I'd like to adopt it as a new mantra for myself!
I found out my daughter and husband were still fooling around in the car when the truck crashed into them. I told myself they were still laughing when they died. I told myself that I should have been with them. And for the past year, I've told myself I should have died with them. ....And I'm still alive. Utterly miserable but still alive.
This is on the opening page of the novel and I had to reread it three times it so shocked me and had completely caught me unawares.
The protagonist, 32 year old Diane, runs a literary cafe "Happy People" with the enigmatic Felix, her one and only friend who does his best to support her and shake her out of her grief. For the past year, she has kept herself imprisoned in her flat, refusing to dress, eat properly, work, leave the flat or get better. She wallows in her grief and depression. Then, following another outburst of bullying from the frustrated Felix, she decides to heal herself. To leave the suffocation of Paris and recover from her debilitating depression. On a whim, she hires a cottage and travels to the remote village of Mulranny in Ireland. Here she hopes she can "bury" herself.
The family who rent the cottage to her are friendly and sensitive, caring and respectful. Their son, Edward, who lives in the neighbouring cottage to Diane is not. He appears unkempt, reclusive, solitary, abrupt and rude. There is immediate tension between the two; both accusing the other of self centred behaviour and judgemental accusations, both believing the other to be devoid of feeling or empathy.
Thus begins a tumultuous romance between the two as their paths are thrown together through a series of events that allow them to reveal the truth behind their behaviours. But what happens when a figure from Edward's past returns? And is the relationship Diane really needs to heal? What of her life in Paris? Can she really move forward from her grief and look to the future?
Unfortunately I don't think this book was really for me. I think I was hoping for more about the bookshop (!) and to be honest I did get a little tired of Diane's lingering depression which began to feel a little self indulgent as time went on, as well as a little repetitive. It almost restricted the storyline from moving on and exploring anything else. At times it is difficult to feel much empathy towards the characters as they are not always presented in the most flattering light. The relationship between Edward and Diane reminded me of Kathy and Heathcliff - or perhaps Max from "Rebecca" which was quite interesting but again, a little obvious and a little unfinished - although the author is publishing a sequel so I guess this will be taken up again in her second book.
Essentially this is a romance novel. It is quite short, the characters and plot are not overly developed, it is predictable and follows the rather generic plot line of a woman needing to find herself after suffering a loss without adding anything particularly memorable or different. However, although it wasn't really my kind of book, I think it would appeal greatly to readers of Maeve Binchy, Amanda Prowse, Cecelia Ahern, Marian Keyes and fans of other romance or chick lit books.
Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.