What’s not to love about an author who, a friend claimed, held literary salons in her bedroom as a teenager? Laurie Colwin, died in 1992, but her books are brand-new to me thanks to a recommendation from a friend. Family Happiness looks at a rather staid family of Manhattanites of whom “Polly” is the only daughter, the dutiful wife of overworked-attorney Henry and the mother of two great kids. Hers is a world of doing the right thing. Of being counted upon. Of being reliable. Several times while reading this book I had to remind myself that it was published the year I went to college–1980 and not 1955 when my Mom went to college. While my generation–at least in the Midwest–got a good dose of wife and motherhood still matters most, Polly seemed a throw back even for the late 1970s, but maybe she had her kids late and that explains it? Hmmmm. The privileged world of a family with three successful attorneys who attend gallery openings and first nights is a bit removed from my personal life. It is right in line with those for whom I worked during most of the 1990s though, so it was familiar. But eventually all the perfectionism, the putting-others- first-know-matter-what, the whole “oh you have a little job” gets too much for Polly. Perfectionism tends to do that in real life. To say more would be to spoil the story. Family Happiness by Laurie Colwin.
I have a scant 6 1/2 years till I must admit to 60, but that didn’t stop me laughing and nodding and “Amen-ing” to this hilarious diary. “A grown-up’s Bridget Jones” according to a blurb on the back and it was so right! All the annoyances of advancing middle age put perfectly. She may live in London, but Shepard’s Bush, though rising in popularity now with hipsters, is still a very long way from the world Lady Di and flatmates inhabited. “Gritty” would be a nice description. It compares well with my own current neighborhood though the denizens of Nowhereville, Ohio, are nearly all white, mostly born in the county and going nowhere just as fast as their British counterparts (though in both locales there are pleasant exceptions to that rule). Alcohol, tobacco and yelling are the common elements. I’m not sure why the book club line was used as the title–it was just a tiny paragraph of the entire tour de force. I seriously loved every minute of the audio version.I love her cat “Pouncer,” loved her lodger, loved her friend Hughie, loved the House Party at Archie’s. I think my favorite though was her monologue on hipster baby names. Just perfect. Just read it or listen to it. It really doesn’t matter what age you are, you’ll love it. I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club: Diary of a 60th Year by Virginia Ironside.
I must keep raving about this series! Never mind it is intended for kids–it’s wonderful. This time eldest daughter Caddy and youngest daughter Rose invade “darling Daddy’s” London abode while Mom Eve sleeps in the shed back home. Caddy has a revelation and leaves Rose with Daddy and the here-to-for only mentioned girl friend who could be why Mum pours Gin into her Diet Coke and sleeps so much. But this last is not remarked upon by Rose who is desperate to go to America and see Tom. Meanwhile, cousin Saffy, who looks quiet a lot like Caddy, is just as desperate to identify her father. Her late mother, Eve’s late twin, never divulged his identity. The identity was so fabulous and this story so well told that I sent a direct Tweet to the author begging for grown up’s novel told by Eve and Darling Bill in turn.Their marriage is just so novel-worthy. Permanent Rose by Hilary McKay.
How do I manage to read so much? Friends as me over and over. I don’t watch tv. I do occasionally get a tv series on dvd and watch it or watch something online, but very seldom. I also have an hour and 15 minutes in the car twice a day for my work commute and similar on the weekend to get a child to/fro work, but that is now blissfully over. It adds up. So that’s my secret.
To see the earlier half’s book reviews, click here.