All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Happy People Read & Drink Coffee by Agnes Martin-Lugand

on June 1, 2016

9781760291549Happy People Read & Drink Coffee
Agnes Martin-Lugand (translated from the French by Sandra Smith)
Allen & Unwin
2016 (originally 2013), 272p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Diane has a charmed life as a wife, a mother and the owner of a literary café in Paris called Happy People Read and Drink Coffee. But when Diane suddenly loses her beloved husband and daughter in a car accident her perfect world is shattered. Trapped and haunted by her memories, Diane withdraws from friends and family, unable and unwilling to move forward.

One year on, Diane shocks her loved ones by leaving Paris to move to a small town on the Irish coast to rebuild her life alone. There she meets Edward, a brooding, handsome photographer who lives next door. Initially Edward resents Diane’s intrusion into his solitary life, but before long they find themselves drawn to each other . . .

At once heartbreaking and uplifting, Happy People Read and Drink Coffee is the inspirational story of a woman finding new meaning-and love-in the wake of devastating loss. The bestselling French phenomenon is now also being made into a Hollywood movie.

Winter is slowly arriving here and last week I had about an hour and a bit to spare before I had to leave to pick up my son. It was a sunny day so inside it was lovely and warm and I had a recliner perfectly positioned to catch the most sun and I picked up this book to help pass the time before I needed to leave. To my surprise, I finished it in that hour – it’s an engrossing read, equal parts fascinating and sad.

Diane is a year past losing her family – her husband and young daughter and she hasn’t made much progress, if any, in the grieving process. She rarely leaves their flat, she doesn’t go to work. She hasn’t changed the bedsheets since her husband died, still hoping to catch the scent of him on their sheets. When her best friend threatens a holiday, she knows it will be somewhere filled with bright sun, cocktails and oiled men. That isn’t what she wants, instead she decides to visit a place her husband expressed interest in. Ireland.

She rents a cottage on the Irish coast in County Mayo from a friendly couple but all Diane really wants is to be left alone. When she meets her neighbour Edward, he is so incredibly rude that they clash immediately. He makes no secret of the fact he wants Diane to leave, preferably immediately and the two have several vicious clashes before a horrible action on Diane’s part begins a strange truce…..that slowly evolves.

This book packs a very emotional punch. I found it very easy to identify with Diane, to imagine how I might react in her situation. Diane hasn’t managed to even begin to pull herself up to ‘functional’ even one year on – she spends most days drinking and smoking or sleeping and if it wasn’t for a friend bringing her food and tidying up, she would be living in a hovel. Her grief is so raw, so visceral that it seems almost insurmountable. She can’t really bring herself to care about anything, not even the bookstore/cafe that she was so proud of when she opened it. A deep sense of grief and loss settled over me when I read this book, so well portrayed was Diane’s despair. When she makes the decision to go to Ireland, I thought she might be improving but she pretty much settles into the same sort of life as at home, the only differences being sparring with Edward.

Edward. Hmm. I have to admit, I was in two minds about him. I really should’ve disliked him – well I did dislike him. At first. He’s very, very rude, so rude in fact that it’s difficult to begin to see him as anything else. What he says to Diane in the heat of the moment is so utterly horrible (he could’ve had no idea that he’d hit somewhat close to the mark, but still. The fact that he uttered it is bad enough really) and he’s so abrupt that he’s almost irredeemable. Diane isn’t perfect either obviously, there are times when she pretty much seems to lose the plot and flips out on Edward, or storms over demanding he do something or other when she’d be best to just leave it be but Edward is a very difficult character. I’m a sucker for a broody man though….. So I started to get behind their changing relationship after the considerate way he treated her during a difficult moment and the two of them did begin to develop something really interesting. Then it went a bit odd again – Edward’s ex turns up and she was almost like a caricature. Actually, no. She wasn’t ‘almost’ like, she was. That shark-eating female who has a radar for when their man might be moving on, etc. It didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story, nor really with Edward himself, that he would be involved in that particular type of relationship.

I don’t know why, but none of that was enough to deter me. I still was invested in this and I really wanted Edward and Diane to end up together, so that each of them could heal. Deep down I think they’re well suited and I enjoyed the way in which this was slowly teased, even though I had some issues along the way. The ending surprised me, but in a good way. I feel as though Diane has made the right decision for herself for now and that the book did end with some progress for her personally. She finally begins not only putting her life back together and accepting that there are some changes, but also moving on. Not just merely existing, but living again.

Happily for me, there’s a sequel to this called Don’t Worry, Life is Easy and basically I want it yesterday! I really need to find out what happens.

8/10

Book #120 of 2016

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6 responses to “Review: Happy People Read & Drink Coffee by Agnes Martin-Lugand

  1. Great review. I didn’t realize there was a sequel! You’ve just made me very excited. Can’t wait to see what you think of that once you get your hands on a copy!

    • My ARC included the first chapter of the sequel, so that’s how I know! I was so happy after I finished this thinking WUT!!!! How could it end like that and then turned the page and found they’d included the first chapter of the next book. I think it’s a good idea when a book ends in this way to make sure that readers know that it’s not really the end just yet!

  2. Deborah says:

    Oh, I really struggled with this… I disliked Edward A LOT – far from just brooding I found him quite violent… not just aggressively protective etc…

    I have to admit I don’t know that I’d go back for more…

    • Yes, I definitely get that……I think that at times, he was taken too far, bordered on the savage. But I found most of them were written to extremes and I did like him more as the book went on. There was something about their dynamic that I ended up getting intrigued by the further I got into the book. And I’ve got a thing about unfinished business….I want to know what happens next!

  3. […] Happy People Read & Drink Coffee by Agnes Martin-Lugand. This one was a bit of a surprise! This was a book that seemed to really divide people. I know a few that loathed it. I actually really liked it – although I didn’t find it a comfortable read for most of the time. The main character is experiencing a really gut-wrenching sort of grief that is difficult to bear witness to. And it features people at some of their ugliest moments. But it was intriguing and I really want to find out what happens next. […]

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