There is no room for error when it comes to novels as slim as this one. Fortunately, Jens Christian Grøndahl is impeccable! Often I Am Happy opens after the death of Ellinor's husband Georg: she feels a mixture of emotions and a need to confide in someone. That someone is her long-deceased friend, Georg's first wife Anna. Ellinor goes back and forth in time, telling Anna about her life now, her relationships with the sons Anna never saw to adulthood, her new home. But she keeps going back to their tangled past and her own murky background. I enjoyed this beautiful, sorrowful, occasionally funny story immensely--this is a book to read and re-read in quick succession!— Lauren
This elegant and nuanced literary gem explores the intricacies of friendship, secrets, and two marriages, for fans of The Dinner and Dept. of Speculation.
"Often I am happy and yet I want to cry; / For no heart fully shares my joy." -- B.S. Ingemann
Ellinor is seventy. Her husband Georg has just passed away, and she is struck with the need to confide in someone. She addresses Anna, her long-dead best friend, who was also Georg's first wife. Fully aware of the absurdity of speaking to someone who cannot hear her, Ellinor nevertheless finds it meaningful to divulge long-held secrets and burdens of her past: her mother's heartbreaking pride; Ellinor's courtship with her first husband; their seemingly charmed friendship with Anna and Georg; the disastrous ski trip that shattered the two couples' lives. Wry and mellow yet infused with subdued emotion, this philosophical, lyrical novel moves in parallel narrative threads while questioning the assumptions we cherish concerning identity and love.