Happy People Read and Drink Coffee…
Diane seems to have the perfect life. She is a wife, a mother, and the owner of Happy People Read and Drink Coffee, a cozy literary cafe in Paris. But when she suddenly loses her beloved husband and daughter in a tragic car accident, the world as she knows it instantly vanishes. Trapped and haunted by her memories, Diane retreats from friends and family, unable and unwilling to move forward.
But one year later, Diane shocks her loved ones and makes the surprising decision to move to a small town on the Irish coast, finally determined to heal and rebuild her life alone—until she meets Edward, the attractive yet taciturn Irish photographer who lives next door. At first abrasive and unwelcoming, Edward initially resents Diane’s intrusion into his life of solitude . . . until he can no longer keep her at arm’s length, and they fall into a surprising and tumultuous romance. But will it last when Diane leaves Ireland, and Edward, for the home she once ran away from in Paris? At once heartbreaking and uplifting, Diane’s story is deeply felt, reminding us that love remembered is love enduring.
I will confess from the outset that I bought this novel solely based on its terrific title. I knew nothing else about it and I didn’t even read the blurb on the back until I got home. My initial thoughts when I started reading was that much had been lost in the translation of this novel. I felt instinctively that if I could read French and get a copy of the original, then the story would be so much better. As I progressed through the novel, I began to wonder if perhaps I needed to actually be French to enjoy it.
I don’t want to go so far as to say this was a terrible novel. I feel instead that it was a story with great promise that was under written. The characters were abrupt and rude, to the point where they were not even realistic; the story was rushed and jumped from A to D and then to Z with a half developed plot that had significant holes in it. Indeed, it was a short novel so there was certainly room to expand everything out. Unfortunately, being written in the first person did it no favours. The sentences were short and choppy, too many ‘I am’ so ‘I did’ and the whole novel read like a blow by blow list of actions with the most astounding amount of cigarettes being smoked throughout. I am certain a cigarette was lit on each page of this novel. I had no idea that people still smoked so much – even in Europe! There were certainly more cigarettes being smoked than coffee being consumed and almost no book reading at all, despite the title. All throughout, there was very little feeling or emotion evoked. A story based on such tragedy should have brought me to tears at some point, especially being told from the main character’s point of view, but all I felt was a little bored and slightly amazed that this novel was actually an international best seller, whatever that really means anyway.
Despite all of this, I finished it. And I liked the ending. This is above all a story about a woman finding her way back after tragedy, not to her old self, but to the new person she needs to be in order to live her life with happiness. I kept thinking about PS I Love You and how that made a much better movie than book. The same will happen here. I think Happy People Read and Drink Coffee will be a good movie, providing Hollywood doesn’t mess with the ending and turn it into a romance. The way this novel was written reminded me of movie scripts I have read in the past; all dialogue and physical movements but no emotion or depth. I look forward to seeing the movie because I really think this is essentially a lovely story. It just needs someone else to do it justice.