Cover Image: This Is Happiness

This Is Happiness

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Member Reviews

Several Years ago I read Four Letters of Love and thought it so perfect I worried about reading another Williams’ novel in case it muted that memory. In Life is Happiness I found the same masterly story telling - unique, poetic and utterly memorable. The writing is lyrical, dense in adjectives and metaphors, in beautiful perfect language. Noe (l) is a young man living with his beloved grandparents in a tiny  village in Clare, Ireland. There is only one telephone and electricity is on its way. The church is at its heart and life is centred around Easter and religious rituals. Christy arrives in the village on two missions - to help the villagers prepare for electricity and to repair his past wrongs. Christy and Noe form a wonderful, unlikely friendship. Christy is in his 60s seeking to make peace with memories, whilst Noe, in his late teens,  is trying to define himself and reconcile ‘all that future, urgent and unreachable’ as they embark on drunken bike rides, search for a mystical fiddler, and look for love. The story is full of wonderful characters - Noe’s grandparents Doady and Ganga, the steely Doctor Troy and his three shimmering daughters and Christy. At the heart there is story telling at its absolute best. An utterly beautiful book which will make you laugh and cry and bathe in its warmth. ‘Everybody carries a world. But certain people change the air about them’ - I think that this is the essence of Williams’ writing. He does not just write, he composes. It’s a book to be read slowly, to savour and hold in your heart. With thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc for a digital copy of this book.
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Reading 'This is Happiness' is like taking a slow trip down a gently flowing river, winding smoothly around wide bends, in the company of good friends with long stories to tell, your favourite drink by your side, and all the time in the world to enjoy it. His prose is lush and lyrical and filled with gentle humour and love as he recounts an earlier time in rural Ireland, before the coming of the telephone and electricity, when life was simpler and steeped in tradition.

Noel ('Noe') Crowe is the elderly narrator, looking back 60 years to the 1950s when he was 17 and staying with his grandparents Ganga and Doady in Faha, a small town in County Clare where the rain "was a condition of living". Noe had recently lost his mother and taking some time away from the seminary where he was training to be a priest after questioning his faith. Life in Faha hadn't changed for decades, but when his grandparents take in a lodger, Christy, at the same time that the rain stops for an unprecedented dry spell, Noe senses change in the air. Christy has travelled and seen the world but now in his sixties has returned to Ireland, taking a job with the Electricity Board to get people to sign up to being connected to the network that will be installed. For Noe it is an exciting time, going on Christy's rounds with him, listening to his stories, going out in the evening to find good music in the pubs, helping Christy find redemption for a past wrong and falling in love for the first time.

There are so many beautiful passages that I underlined and deserve to be quoted here, but that would mean reproducing much of the book, so you'll have to go and read it for yourself and fall in love with the characters and a kind of life that's been and gone. 5★ ++
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I loved this gentle and tender coming-of-age tale set in the late 1950s in the small Irish village of Faha, County Clare, a village where time seems to have stood still but which is now faced with encroaching modernity and progress as the Rural Electrification Scheme is about to bring electricity to the community. Noe, now 78, looks back on the time he spent in Faha, aged just 17, staying with his grandparents when he dropped out of the seminary after his mother's death. Full of grief and uncertainty about his future, his world is further impacted by the arrival of Christy McMahon, another herald of change, a stranger who wants to atone for a wrong he committed in the past, and who becomes a formative influence on Noe.  It’s an evocative and atmospheric portrait of an Irish community, beautifully written, slow-paced, reflecting life in Faha, and is an affectionate ode to the old Ireland, Irish culture and the old Irish ways. Although nostalgic it never descends into sentimentality. There’s comedy here but also sadness, loss and grief, and as Noe reflects he realises that he too has made mistakes like Christy. Charming book.
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This is a lyrical and very Irish coming-of-age story, well-worth reading.

The story begins when Noe looks back at his youth, and remembers his path to maturity. It takes a leap back in time to when he decided to leave the seminary, and found himself at a loss. He stayed with his extremely old-fashioned grandparents in a  village which seemingly hadn't changed for centuries.  When Christy, a lodger, came to work on the electricity, and to search for his old love, Annie, Noe's life changed When he fell in love himself, he had to work out what was really important.

This is a beautifully-written, extremely evocative and moving book. You can almost see the misty sunshine and smell the freshly-mown grass in the Irish village. However, it is written in a stream-of-consciousness style, and I am not a big fan of that kind of writing, so I found it difficult to read at times.

I read another book by Niall Williams many years ago, which I preferred.  I think that it was Four Letters of Love , which Mum also enjoyed.

I received a free ebook from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

EDITION	Hardcover
ISBN	9781526609335
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This is a beautifully written book, full of unexpected turns of phrase and descriptions of nature   (particularly rain!)  and characters. The reader is forced to slow down to village pace and enjoy the story telling, however, there were times when I did wish it moved just a little faster.
Thank you to netgalley and Bloomsbury for an advance copy of this book.
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Niall Williams writes a joyous ode to Ireland, its landscape, and to family and community roots in this lyrical coming of age novel set in the rural village of Faha in County Clare. It speaks of a not so long ago past where life was simpler, a place that ran to its own sense of time, ostensibly not a memorable place, but Williams lovingly and tenderly evokes and illuminates a family and a community with their own particular beauty. Even if it did rain incessantly in all its multitudinous forms almost all of the time, a rain that shapes location and its inhabitants. People are stories, and stories are a source of celebration, reasons to live, inherently integral to Faha, knitting its people together with each other and at the heart of its traditions and rituals. Stories may not always be believed but they have currency, a currency that is quintessentially bone deep in its Irishness. Nothing is more Irish than the central place of the Catholic Church, and true to this, in Faha its life blood is St Cecilia's Church, and Father Coffey refuses all opportunites to move, so deep is he embedded in Faha and to Fahaeans.

78 year old Noel 'Noe' Crowe is looking back at his life and loves, a life that he knows is rose tinted, Faha had its own villains, was scarcely immune to the repercussions of the failure of Irish institutions and their failings have been laid bare and the strains of impoverished lives. He refuses to let all this loom large in his memories, he is all too aware of his own errors, stupidities and how he unintentionally hurt others. He goes back to the time he returned to Faha at 17 years old after losing his faith and leaving the seminary, too afraid of the world to love it, and plagued by thoughts that somehow he is missing out. He is living with Ganga and Doudy, his grandparents who kept intact ancient courtesies in the theatre that is their marriage, with Noe learning what subterfuge and sacrifice it took to be independent and undefeated by the pressures of reality. Christy comes to lodge, a man who had returned to Ireland poorer than when he left it to travel far and wide. He is deeply wrinkled like a chamois, with a poor eyesight that has been diminished by the world and the beauty of women and young Noe can feel that he is going to be a force for change. This is the glorious story of Noe's unfolding life and a Christy resolved to atone for his past mistakes.

The prose in the novel is so eloquent, imbued with the slow moving rhythms of rural life that reflects the pace of life that now seems to beyond reach for most of us. This is an immersive read that takes in the changes that are brought with the introduction of the telephone and electricity, and the impact they have in Faha. What really got me was William's gift with characters, from Noe, Christy, and to the beloved Ganga, a man who didn't believe in money, and despite being poor would drop a coin for someone to find, all so that he could make their day. People are vibrantly depicted with their quirks, simultaneously portrayed in all their ordinariness and extraordinariness. This will not appeal to readers who prefer their books to have a faster pace but for me, the world stopped as I read this, I was enthralled by Faha, this time period and the people. Williams is an accomplished storyteller. Many thanks to Bloomsbury for an ARC
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This Is Happiness by Niall Williams is about the lives of the residents of a community in a small Irish parish and their experiences falling in and out of love.
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I've read Williams before,and I don't mind admitting he's brought me to tears.
Although it didn't quite get to that point in this book,I was once again enveloped in a familiar feeling of family and home... despite never growing up in Ireland without electricity.
He shines when writing about his characters,each of them real,and all of them filling out the story perfectly.
I think I'll miss Noe and Christy and Ganga and Doady in the next books I read.
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