Monday, 11 January 2016

The Promise Of Happiness Book Review

There are very few books that truly divide my opinion - my mum jokes that since I've been able to read I'd sit and read the back of shampoo bottles if it was all that was available to me; and she's right, even books I find awful to get into I normally fall in love with by about 50 pages in. Not The Promise Of Happiness by Justin Cartwright though, even now I've finished I find myself sitting here unsure whether I just read a book that I loved or strongly disliked.

Katy bought this for me and, reading the blurb, I completely get why - it's whimsical, charming and funny sounding without truly falling into chick-lit and, when I'm not reading mystery novels, that's what I'd normally go for. I was desperate to get my hands on it and so when I finally got around to digging through the books I got off of Katy for Christmas this was immediately the one that I pulled from the pile - but as soon as I started reading I doubted my choice. The book is beautiful, and poetic, full of dreamlike little anecdotes of a life long past that moulded the characters into the family that they stand as at the book's opening; and yet something about it makes me feel a little negative towards the novel.

It's not that the book is unpleasant, it wasn't a chore to sit and read through it by any means - and staying up to read it didn't have me crying into my pillowcase wishing for it to finish sooner, but I just spent the whole time reading the story wondering whether or not I truly liked it. Cartwright has been clever in his representation of each family member in the story, and their coming to grips with Juliet's homecoming after being in prison for two years, showing the personal despair of each - and yet this makes it hard to truly empathise and stand by any character. We see their flaws so plainly that it's hard to fall in love with any of them - Charlie and his doubtful love towards his wife, Charles and his inappropriate thoughts and feelings, Daphne's dutiful housewife routine, Sophie's drug addiction and Juliet's story behind her imprisonment. Although all are gripping characters, I think that the problem lies in the fact that I just don't particularly like any of them.


Don't get me wrong; the book is captivating. The story is charming, flowing between the past memories that lead up to where we are now and the story that is happening right before us as readers - it's beautifully written (perhaps too flowery in some sections, but that's a personal opinion), I just wish it were more relatable, more loveable. As much as I liked the book and found myself intrigued by it, I just didn't love it - it didn't have me out in the streets singing it's praises and that's what I want from a book like this, for it to sweep me off of my feet.

Have you read The Promise Of Happiness? What did you think?

Sammy xo.

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