Book Review: This is Happiness, by Niall Williams

Book Review: This is Happiness, by Niall Williams

Another men's book club selection. To be exposed to the wide variety of work. What a gift to be part of such a group!

This fiction (I suppose it's at least partly based on real experiences at some level) is packed with a rich vocabulary (although some I suppose is Irish-English) a bit distant from my usual range; this run-on sentence is representative of some of the looong ones the author uses - some English profs probably would fault both some looong and some terse writing, but once you get used to it, things are smoother. Whew!

Now you can sense the writing style at times.

The characters are few, or at least the ones that count, with a slew of others so numerous as to be fleeting. For me, they simply managed to clog up the story and made me try to remember names that need not be remembered. The story is told from the perspective of a now much older narrator and revolves about a somewhat carefree and worldly man who was employed by the electrification project as electricity was extended to the more rural and remote portions of Ireland. The town, Faha, certainly is in an outer region of far-west Ireland. Christy McMahon, the electric representative, boards in the attic of the grandparents of the author, who then was a young man living with them. The grandparents had the only telephone in the area, and thus were the center of neighbors using their phone for calls in and out, in addition to a business contact point for Christy. The story revolves about a relationship between Christy and a local woman, one begun many years ago, and which was ended very badly by Christy.

The writer uses a personal style, and on occasion employs an "inside" method as if he is turning aside and speaking softly to the reader. It's effective. Personally, at times, I teared up (OK, cried) at the poignancy and rawness of the emotions of the powerful denouement. It's a story of what might have been, yet probably is better than if it had been.

Jim George

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