THIS IS HAPPINESS by Niall Williams
Kirkus Star


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The heart-expanding extremes of life—first love and last rites—are experienced by an unsettled young Dubliner spending one exceptional spring in a small Irish village.

Christy McMahon “walked this line between the comic and the poignant,” and so does Williams (History of the Rain, 2014, etc.) in his latest novel, another long, affectionate, meandering story, this one devoted to the small rural community of Faha, which is about to change forever with the coming of electricity to the parish. Delighting in the eccentricities of speech, behavior, and attitude of the local characters, Williams spins a tale of life lessons and loves new and old, as observed from the perspective of Noel Crowe, 17 when the book’s events take place, some six decades older as he narrates them. Noel’s home is in Dublin, where he was training to become a Catholic priest, but he's lost his faith and retreated to the home of his grandparents Doady and Ganga in Faha. Easter is coming, and the weather—normally infinite varieties of rain—turns sunny as electrical workers cover the countryside, erecting poles and connecting wires. Christy, a member of the electrical workforce, comes to lodge alongside Noel in Doady and Ganga's garret but has another motive: He’s here to find and seek forgiveness from the woman he abandoned at the altar 50 years earlier. While tracing this quest, Williams sets Noel on his own love trajectory as he falls first for one, then all of the daughters of the local doctor. These interactions are framed against a portrait of village life—the church, the Gaelic football, the music, the alcohol—and its personalities. Warm and whimsical, sometimes sorrowful, but always expressed in curlicues of Irish lyricism, this charming book makes varied use of its electrical metaphor, not least to express the flickering pulse of humanity.

A story both little and large and one that pulls out all the Irish stops.

Pub Date: Dec. 3rd, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-63557-420-3
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2019


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