Book Club: Happy People Read and Drink Coffee

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Author: Agnès Martin-Lugand
ISBN: 978-1-76029-154-9
RRP: $27.99

Happy People Read and Drink Coffee… anyone that knows me knows that this book had me at the title.

When I was offered the book as a book club title I agreed without even checking out the blurb. Reading and coffee both in the title, sold. Start the blurb to discover there’s a literary cafe, double sold. That would be my ultimate dream. I would LOVE to open a literary cafe, if only I had the capital.

This book is a French phenomenon being made into a major Hollywood film, and I had never heard of it. It was a little funny though, I was thinking about it today and I’m taking part in the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge and trying to read 50 books by Australian women… my last three books have been by an American (about Australia), English and French.

Anyway, I digress. Happy People Read & Drink Coffee, a title that spoke to my soul. I picked it up this morning knowing that there was something else I should read first, but it wasn’t here yet so I was going to start it anyway… and the other one turned up. So I thought about it a little and in the end I was just grabbed by this one and finished it.

Diane’s wonderful life is left if tatters after the tragic accident that leaves her alone, mourning the loss of her husband and young daughter. Over a year later she is still struggling; she hasn’t been back to work, she hasn’t been to the cemetery, she hasn’t packed anything up and her best friend Felix is starting to get really concerned.

With such a heartbreaking beginning I wasn’t sure what to expect. Diane’s heartbreak was palpable and I couldn’t help but feel for her. I couldn’t imagine such a loss but I could understand the way in which she grieved. Time passed and those close to her wanted to see her start to live again, and that’s understandable too, but she needed the time to decide she was ready.

Flamboyant best friend Felix decides it’s time to get back into the world and wants to take Diane on a holiday, and he’s determined. The fear of the holiday Felix will plan is enough to make Diane take drastic measures, she decides to take control and find somewhere for herself to go. A tiny beachside town in Ireland is the destination and everyone is against the idea.

Diane says she’s leaving to try and start looking to the future, to start living again, but she’s really only saying what she thinks everyone needs to hear. Her plan is to find somewhere quiet and far away to hide with her memories and her grief.

happy people

Her desire to get away to somewhere quiet and isolated is thwarted when the small Irish town is very friendly and close knit making it a little difficult for her to keep to herself. The only person who isn’t friendly is her neighbour, and they are at constant loggerheads.

Happy People Read & Drink Coffee is Diane’s slow emergence from her cocoon of grief. Her return from the abyss and first steps back into her life.

One thing that really jumped out at me and had me wondering how long ago the book was originally published was the smoking. I was a smoker for a very long time so I certainly have nothing against it but the current trend is to try and get everyone away from smoking so the amount of smoking in this book surprised me, it could be a cultural thing too I guess but it certainly struck me. Lots of smoking inside and constant smoking, and not only from Diane which could have been understood in her frame of mind. It struck me as something more 80s than current. Not to forget the drunken driving home from the pub.

Diane starts to come back to the world and I started to wonder where the story was going to go, was this going to become a romance or a rebound or a drought breaker but it was none of these things. It was a poignant return to life, a reminder that the world is still out there and no matter how hard you tried your days aren’t up; a tale of strength and resilience.

Happy People Read and Drink Coffee is the story or a sheltered young woman thrown under the wheels of the bus of life and slowly edging her way back from the brink to walk again. A young woman who had to learn to stand on her own, which she had never had to do before, and now she had to do it as she put together the pieces of her shattered heart and her crushed life.

I think this is going to make a beautiful movie and I would actually be interested in checking it out, and I don’t watch a lot of movies.

The characters are interesting and well developed, and all are facing their demons.

I really quite enjoyed this one and it certainly went quicker than I anticipated. It is translated from French and the translation is pretty seamless. The story still has a beautiful flow, it’s not stilted and it will appeal to many but it is one to read with caution depending on how closely you have felt this kind of loss.

Happy People Read & Drink Coffee is available now through Allen & Unwin, Booktopia, Angus & Robertson Bookworld and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Allen & Unwin 25 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members will be reading Happy People Read & Drink Coffee so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments.


27 thoughts on “Book Club: Happy People Read and Drink Coffee

  1. Another great book and was nice to read a shorter story with bigger writing for a change. An emotional book that was very well written as I found myself immersed in the story and having a sook every now and then, wiping them away before my husband or kids noticed me haha.
    Diane was a stronger person than what I would be but I guess we dont really know that until we face tragedy and loss.
    Thanks so much B & L, Agnus Martin Lugand and Allen and Unwin for a brilliant read 🙂

  2. Happy People Read and Drink Coffee was a much shorter book than I expected due to the large spaced font it was printed in. The book was a quick read that was light and easy to get through despite the over looming themes of grief and heartbreak.

    The book is written from the perspective of Diane the whole way through, and we follow her on a journey through her grief for a year where she slows makes upwards progress. There are not a lot of other characters throughout the story but there are a handful that keep appearing and play a part in Diane’s journey in various ways.

    I found the writing style easy to read but found the flow of the events within the chapters a little disconnected at times – sometimes the next sentence is referring to an event that is the next day/week etc without being immediately obvious that it isn’t at the same time as the last sentence. I also found some of the conversations slightly awkward or strange. However, I just found out that this book was translated from French so this would probably explain both of these criticisms as the book probably is not as smooth as in first language!

    One thing that did stand out to me was the constant smoking throughout the book but I have just come back from a trip to Europe and I can say this is a lot more prevalent there (I’m not sure about Ireland though) so this could be the cultural norm of the author. I found it was probably mentioned a lot more than necessary though but in some ways it was an important part of the character development. The one other thing that I did find shocking was the drunk driving that seemed the norm for the characters – not sure this one is actually acceptable there?!

    The ending of the book was not at all how I expected it but it was kind of beautiful in a healing way. I think I would have liked the story to go on past what it did so we could see what happened a few months/years later, but at the same time I do like how it leaves you hanging so you can imagine the last part yourself, and it leaves itself open to a possible sequel.

    This was a great read and I enjoyed it. I do like watching movies of books I have enjoyed so I will look out for this one. I think the movie will be quite good because it is a short book so they should be able to include most of the events of the book whereas when longer books are made into movies they cut a lot which damages the story.

  3. The speed of which Dianne’s tale of loss begins is so fast you cant believe it, but I suppose that’s the way life goes.

    The first few pages I thought the book was going to be too predictable, but I was pleasantly surprised, I couldn’t put it down and finished it in only a few hours. I only had a few issues with the book:
    • The writing and dialogue doesn’t seem too subtle but that may have been lost in translation.
    • Out of all the main characters I found that I was most drawn to Felix- her homosexual business partner. I found His story to be a lot more interesting a witty.
    • The book had no clear ending, it was very open to your own interpretation. This of course leaves room for a sequel but doesn’t leave me feeling “satisfied” when I finish reading

    All up I was happy to read the story, but a little let down with the content and lack of depth

  4. I was really excited to read “Happy People Read and Drink Coffee” as the title is basically a perfect positive affirmation of my life (just add wine!). The dichotomy between the seemingly care-free title and the devastating and overwhelming grief borne out in the first few pages is extreme but such can be the nature of these freak tragic accidents and the stark contrast worked to emphasise this. I really enjoyed exploring a little bit of Ireland with Diane and the differences between the two countries. I think the ruggedly beautiful Irish coast is the perfect setting for story about grief, despair and self discovery. There will certainly be plenty of spectacular locations to use in the film! I was a little disappointed there wasn’t more of Paris featured though.

    The juxtaposition of Felix and Diane works really well, and Felix certainly adds some lighter moments to the story line! I was frustrated with Edward until his story was revealed. Just goes to show everyone has baggage and you never know what they have been through also.

    On reflection I think the ending was apt and suited the book (although I was hoping for different deep down). I’ll be interested to see how the film ending is done! Overall an emotionally draining but strangely uplifting novel.

    Thanks to Beauty and Lace as well as Allen and Unwin for the opportunity to read this fabulous book. Now I’ll just be off to book my trip to Europe…

  5. They say god things come in small packages and I must say that this book while not a long read was definitely worth my attention. Originally I was drawn to the title but the story is well written that it leads you into a tragic life full of pain but also friendship. Sometimes it takes friends to make you realize that life is still worth living. The main character suffers a great tragedy but Agnès Martin-Lugandwas was very clever in writing the story that it was not third person it made you feel the tragedy and daily struggle and the eventual realization to Dianne that she was still in the land of the living.

    A story that deals head first with the issues of loss, living with loss and then starting again. I loved the detail of the feelings and how the struggle was real it made you connect with Dianne and feel greatly her pain. It also gave great insight into how others treat you and what they expect you to do and act.

    A story for anyone thinking they are not strong enough to go on… it shows that with time and good friends and love….. pain and devastation is not gone but you learn to live with it rather than continually fight it.

    I must say I am really looking forward to the film and will be lining up… with tissues in hand…..

    If you are looking for a beautiful story to read then this is a must. Thank you for the opportunity,…. this book will be put in my private collection and be kept for another read in the future.

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