Happy People Read and Drink Coffee

Happy People Read and Drink Coffee
Agnés Martin-Lugand
Translated by Sandra Smith

Weinstein Books 2016 Translation

The French novel, “Happy People Read and Drink Coffee,” by Agnés Martin-Lugand, chronicles Diane’s life-journey from extreme suffering after her husband Colin and daughter Clara were killed when a truck crashed into their car, to survival.

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“. . . a fast dramatic read . . . .”

A year has passed since the accident but Diane is unable to overcome her deep depression and return to the literary coffee shop she owns and operates with her gay colleague Felix.

When Felix devises a joint “Club Med” vacation plan to get her out of despondency, Diane predicts that would be a nightmare and instead develops her own travel plans. She decides to travel alone to a small town on the Irish coast, a place Colin always wanted to visit but she rejected because she preferred warm weather vacations.  She rents a small cottage near the sea, and quickly falls into her routine of not dressing, comatose in front of the TV, talking to photographs of Colin and Clara. She mostly avoids her close neighbor, Edward, who also prefers to be left alone. Their encounters are always combative, leading her to believe he is insane.

Diane ultimately connects with the people of Mulranny and begins to understand Edward’s contentious behavior. Their unfortunate lives become entwined when he comes to her aid, and she is surprisingly propelled into a new loving relationship.

The novel, singularly focused on the relationship between Diane and Edward, could have been enhanced with more vivid details on the contrast between her life in Paris and her new life in Ireland other than just Irish people drinking Guinness beer, playing rugby and eating mutton, though the author mentions briefly the friendly nature of the Irish versus Parisians. Still, it is a fast dramatic read as Diane’s grief unfolds and dissipates.

Reviewer: Kate Padilla