NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST and REAL SIMPLE
A profound and enchanting new novel from Booker Prize-longlisted author Niall Williams about the loves of our lives and the joys of reminiscing.
You don't see rain stop, but you sense it. You sense something has changed in the frequency you've been living and you hear the quietness you thought was silence get quieter still, and you raise your head so your eyes can make sense of what your ears have already told you, which at first is only: something has changed.
The rain is stopping. Nobody in the small, forgotten village of Faha remembers when it started; rain on the western seaboard was a condition of living. Now--just as Father Coffey proclaims the coming of electricity--it is stopping. Seventeen-year-old Noel Crowe is standing outside his grandparents' house shortly after the rain has stopped when he encounters Christy for the first time. Though he can't explain it, Noel knows right then: something has changed.
This is the story of all that was to follow: Christy's long-lost love and why he had come to Faha, Noel's own experiences falling in and out of love, and the endlessly postponed arrival of electricity--a development that, once complete, would leave behind a world that had not changed for centuries.
Niall Williams' latest novel is an intricately observed portrait of a community, its idiosyncrasies and its traditions, its paradoxes and its inanities, its failures and its triumphs. Luminous and otherworldly, and yet anchored with deep-running roots into the earthy and the everyday, This Is Happiness is about stories as the very stuff of life: the ways they make the texture and matter of our world, and the ways they write and rewrite us.
In glorious and lyrical prose, Williams (History of the Rain) spins the tale of one 1958 season in the village of Faha, County Kerry, where young "Noe" Crowe, only 17 and already departed from the seminary, has washed up with his grandparents. The story opens on the Wednesday of Holy Week with the cessation of an almost constant rain, relieving the villagers of their life "under a fall of watery pitchforks." To add to this wonder, the electricity is finally coming to Faha and with it a lodger at Ganga and Doady Crowe's house. Christy McMahon is a man of broad experience who seems "as if it was he who told the world the joke of himself" and a perfect companion to Noe. During that late spring and early summer, Noe assists Christy in signing up the locals for electric service, and they spend their evenings on a quest for music at countryside pubs. Most important for Christy is his attempt to gain forgiveness from Annie Mooney, now Annie Gaffney, widow of the village chemist, a woman that Christy left at the altar decades before. Meanwhile, love springs on Noe unawares as he comes under the thrall, in succession, of each of the lovely Troy sisters, daughters of Faha's doctor, whose attention Noe needs after an accident. Noe's reminiscences of that period are full of beauty and hard-won wisdom. This novel is a delight.
A really perfect book. Setting, characters, plot, language—all flawlessly executed.