I didn't really know anything about Happy People Read & Drink Coffee when I first saw it- but I really liked the cover. An author with a Clearly French name. Picture of a Parisian femme on the cover. Eiffel Tower on cover. And title about Happy People Reading (YAY) and drinking coffee (YUCK). Soon I was buying a copy. And then I saw a none too flattering short review in the Herald. Should I read it? I figured it would be a good travelling read, nice for sitting on buses and around airports. It's fairly short and the font is pretty big.
It's not really the Paris story I was expecting though. More a Parisian story. Thirty something Diane has been widowed for a year. Her husband Colin and five year old daughter, Clara, are killed off in a car accident on page 2. And Diane really isn't coping. She has been unable to work for the past year, and her literary café, Happy People Read & Drink Coffee is being run by her friend and business partner Felix. Instead Diane remains holed up in her Paris apartment- it's been a year and she hasn't changed the sheets on her bed, hoping instead to retain some scent of her husband. I'm sure they have plenty of aroma, none of it his.
Today, as every day for the past year, utter silence reigned in our apartment. No music, no laughter, no endless conversations.
Diane decides rather rashly to go to Ireland for a lengthy stay because it was a dream of her dead husband Colin to travel there. He liked a bit of Guinness it seems. She takes a cottage in a remote Irish village and holes herself up there just as she'd done in Paris. She soon meets and instantly dislikes her taciturn and grumpy neighbour Edward.
I found it really rather difficult to become absorbed by Diane's story. I had some sympathy for her initially, but her developing relationship with Edward is rather unbelievable. The end is rather preposterous. Look away now if you're bothered by spoilers..... Two grown women fighting over such an unpleasant man. Really?
There are no happy people in Happy People Read and Drink Coffee. Perhaps because none of them are reading or drinking coffee. Well there's a bit of coffee drinking, but much more Guinness and wine is consumed. And way too many cigarettes. There is a dog called Postman Pat. I remain rather mystified at the choice of name for the dog, but he seems to be Postman Pat in the French edition too. I wonder what the average French reader made of that.
I wanted to like this book I really did. Three of the ten chapters do happen to be set in Paris, but they could have been anywhere really. Although I did thrill at the mention of Rue Vieille-du-Temple, as I walked that particular rue many times in 2014. Happy People Read and Drink Coffee was initially self-published (in French, naturally, as Les Gens Heureux Lisent and Boivent du Café), it is being made into a feature film. I'm more than somewhat annoyed that Allen&Unwin didn't bother to change the American spellings in our Australian edition.
There is a sequel - Don't Worry, Life is Easy ( La Vie est Facile, ne t'inquiete pas). I'm not sure that I'll seek it out.
|French Bingo 2016|