Sunday, May 1, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Happy People Read and Drink Coffee by Agnes Martin-Lugand

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Netgalley. This did not influence my review.

I saw this title and hurried to request it from Netgalley: Happy People Read and Drink Coffee by Agnes Martin-Lugand. It had to be a charming book about books and readers with some coffee thrown in. How could I resist? Here is the blurb:

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.

It’s possible I’ve read too many novels with similar premises in recent times and I’m burning out on them, but this one disappointed. Actually, despite the protagonist being a bookstore owner, books play no role in the story and there is much more alcohol and cigarettes than coffee.

The novel starts in the aftermath of the horribly tragic death of Diane’s husband and daughter. She’s devastated, naturally, and wallowing in her misery. She blocks out her in-laws and her parents, convinced that no one else could possibly feel any pain over the loss, which is all her own. The only person she can communicate with is her old college friend, Felix, who, conveniently, is gay, so there is no confusion over the status of their relationship.

She does own a literary café, but it was purchased for her by her parents and husband so that she would have something to do. It seems she then left much of the day-to-day running of the store to Felix, especially after the deaths of her family members. There are no bookish references or literary insights to make the reader think Diane is a bibliophile. It seems more that Parisian bookstore cafés are cool so she wanted to own one.

Felix has been trying to get Diane to emerge from her grieving solitude for a year. Tired of his hovering, she decides to run away to a tiny town in Ireland where she can hide from the world and continue to brood. However, once she gets there, she is distracted by her handsome, extraordinarily rude neighbor. She becomes obsessed with getting revenge on him for his nastiness.

Of course, after some back and forth bickering, they fall in love, despite all the emotional baggage they are both carrying. The question is whether their love will be enough to overcome all their problems.

The novel is short and moves along pretty quickly, but I never really found myself caught up in the romance. I thought the dialogue was somewhat flat and unconvincing, which may be the result of it being a translation of a book originally written in French. The book was long on angst but short on charm. If I’d been more prepared for a "second chances" romance, I might have enjoyed it more. Unfortunately, the title that was so promising seemed to be promising me a different story than it delivered.

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