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The Sad Truth About Happiness: A Novel…

The Sad Truth About Happiness: A Novel (P.S.) (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Anne Giardini

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1591075,058 (2.99)31
Title:The Sad Truth About Happiness: A Novel (P.S.)
Authors:Anne Giardini
Info:Harper Perennial (2006), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:To read, Don't Own

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The Sad Truth About Happiness by Anne Giardini (2005)



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This book was quite readable - it did keep my attention until the end. It has some serious flaws though - did Giardini do her own editing? (Spoiler alert) There is one character who is called by the wrong name and the narrator's references to Gian Luigi's children shift - apparently he had a son who was the youngest, then the youngest was a daughter and the son was in the middle, and then he had all girls - finally it is revealed he had no children at all. Was the narrator's sister Lucy making things up about the children or did she know all along? It is never resolved or explained. There are also unlikelies (if that is a word!) - who can get 2 quick tickets for a flight from Montreal to Vancouver two days before Xmas and during a storm? The Quebec scenes seemed contrived - let's throw in some Canadian bi-culturalism here and see if we all understand French (I did, I grew up there). Weirdly, my copy uses American spelling, which spoiled the delicate Canadian ambiance!
Apparently Ms. Giardini has a very busy life as a mother, writer, lawyer, and head of a company. So maybe something got overlooked in the rush. But where was her editor? This book had potential but without her mother's lifelong influence and a good editor it didn't quite reach "very good" for me. ( )
  dihiba | Sep 16, 2013 |
The title caught my eye and the finely-crafted prose of the first few pages hooked me. The author has a very fine eye for detail and writes it well.

The story started off strong (I could especially relate to the main character's longing for a romantic partner). However, Giardini seems to have gotten distracted by her love of description at the expense of the unifying threads that held the story together. It became uninteresting and, unfortunately, ended unsatisfyingly, even before I got to the odd bits included at the very end. ( )
  Aleesa | Jun 13, 2013 |
Hmm. Kind of boring until the last 1/3 of the book. I don't know why I kept reading it instead of putting it down like I usually do with books I don't enjoy. ( )
  DianeI | Sep 17, 2012 |
What struck me first about this novel is how very formal the language is - reading the first few pages I thought it must be taking place in say the 30's or 40's. the writing remained very formal - gorgeously descriptive though."The woman's voice was high and very clear and had a warble in it, like cold milk pouring out into a tin cup, or a small, resonant ringing bell, and her head sat as gracefully on its upholstered chin and neck as if she were sitting for a portrait" p 135-136I loved the vivid descriptions but it did grate a little when the story perspective is from a contemporary woman in her mid thirties. For most of the book I was involved in the story, the idea and even the very odd descision she made but i lost any sympathy for the character as she swanned around Canada sightseeing leaving her kidnapped newborn niece in the hands of complete strangers and then finally hands the the baby straight to the father at the airport in what is somehow supposed to be a haze of confusion. This in particular snapped the cord of already stretched believability for me andI just didnt care at the end.Worth reading for the stunning description but sadly not the chracters or plot. ( )
  shelleyraec | May 9, 2011 |
I know that I always complain about books that are written in a colloquial style. Now I find myself complaining about the emphatically literary style of The Sad Truth About Happiness by Anne Giardini. Less than halfway through my reading, I felt as though I would be required to hand in a paper on it, say the symbolism of the chapter titles: Attic, Hall, Chimney Pots.... I am sure that as the daughter of Carol Shields, Giardini could turn in nothing less but it impeded the story which was actually quite interesting.

The second last paragraph sums up the message well:

"Life is perhaps after all simply this thing and then the next. We are all of us improvising. We find a careful balance only to discover that gravity or stasis or love or dismay or illness or some other force suddenly tows us in an unexpected direction. We wake up to find that we have changed abruptly in a way that is peculiar and inexplicable. We are constantly adapting, making it up, feeling our way forward, figuring out how to be and where to go next. We work it out, how to be happy, but sooner or later comes a change--sometimes something small, sometimes everything at once--and we have to start over again, feeling our way back to a provisional state of contentment." ( )
  julie10reads | Jan 5, 2011 |
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Home is the normal--whatever place you happen to start
from, and can return to without having to answer questions.
It's a metaphor that may seem to fit reduced expectations.
We no longer seek towers that would reach to the heavens,
we've abandoned attempts to prove that we live in a chain of
being whose every link bears witness to the glory of God.
We merely seek assurance that we find ourselves
in a place where we know our way about

Susan Neiman, Evil in Modern Thought
For my mother and father
First words
In my family, which is middle-class, white, loving, and mildly claustrophobic, I was the child known for contentedness.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060741775, Paperback)

Set in Vancouver, Anne Giardini's debut novel, The Sad Truth About Happiness, follows the life of 32-year-old Maggie, a well-adjusted radiation technologist, as she tries to discover the true nature of happiness. She knows she cannot look to her two sisters as examples: her older sister, Janet, burdened with three kids, is on tranquilizers, while Lucy, the younger, has always been difficult and discontented. Maggie's love life, however, is blossoming, with three new boyfriends (including a doctor and a lawyer). Meanwhile, Maggie's friend, Rebecca, who designs quizzes for women's magazines, tests Maggie with a quiz that purports to measure expected life span. When they learn, according to the quiz, that Maggie might die in three months unless she discovers true happiness, Maggie takes the light-hearted results seriously and sets off on her quest.

Around the same time, Lucy, who has moved to Italy, becomes pregnant by an older Italian man. She flees back to Canada, to the arms of good-hearted, innocent Ryan, who has offered to marry her. When her baby arrives, so does the Italian father, to take his son home to Italy. This is when the novel develops some far-fetched plot twists, as Maggie (who suddenly acts completely out of character) kidnaps the infant and takes off for Quebec with Rebecca, hiding in a small town apparently peopled only by good-hearted Quebecois women. While the author shows a literary flair, particularly in her descriptions of the sky and weather ("the dove- and pearl- and abalone-coloured clouds," "hail the size of infants' teeth"), and draws characters that are, for the most part, believable, the book (like Maggie's evasive happiness) is marred by series of unlikely events and coincidences. --Mark Frutkin, Amazon.ca

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:27 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Taking a magazine questionnaire written by her roommate, Maggie learns that she is likely to die prematurely as a result of her own unhappiness and embarks on a three-month quest to change her circumstances.

(summary from another edition)

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