Author: Agnès Martin-Lugand
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.
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.