My kind of Happy by Cathy Bramley
This book asks the question “What makes you happy?” Cathy Bramley has written a novel which is moving, funny and romantic, as a young woman asks herself this question in the wake of a family tragedy which occurred a year before the book begins. As Fearne comes to terms with her loss, especially in the face of other people moving on with their lives, she begins to realise that settling for a safe job with little adventure is now not enough, that she must actively seek out what makes her happy. The discovery that she wants to use her love of flowers, arranging them and passing them on to make others happy is central to this novel. Bramley has created characters that linger in the mind with their various attributes, ways of speaking, and expression of what they want and need from life. The setting, of a small Derbyshire village which features characters from other novels, is a comforting creation with real a sense of community. Those characters who have previously featured in other novels add to the texture of the book, but are sufficiently well established in this book that no previous knowledge of Bramley’s writing is necessary, but it adds a sense of recognition for interested readers. Fearne discovers a lot about flowers in this novel, not just how to arrange them but also how they can have a real effect on peoples lives, not least on life events but also in expressing feelings. As she discovers that coping in a small business is not always easy, despite her skills, she must come to terms with the complexities of life. Featuring a special dog, Scamp, and some fascinating people, this is a really enjoyable book.
The book opens with Fearne and her best friend Laura at a spa, as both seem to need a boost. Laura is an accountant, tired after the beginning of the year tax tussle, but Fearne admits in her role as narrator “I’d been stuck in a rut for months now and couldn’t see my way out of it”, so she will try even a crystal healing session. After the mixed feelings revealed in the session, Laura reveals a secret which rocks everything for Fearne. Within hours though she realizes she must move on from her situation, and the discovery of an old letter makes her revaluate everything, including her job in marketing which has occupied her for years. Remembering her deep love for her grandmother’s occupation of florist, she signs up for a brief course, and the discovery of a village where a wedding is taking place results in not only meeting new people, but the decision to take a chance on a new career.
This book demonstrates Bramley’s skill in establishing multi dimensional characters, who all have their gestures and quirks which attract, infuriate and make them seem very real. As she comes to know a new community and makes new friends, she discovers that her life involves real risks in order to achieve what she wants. This is a genuinely enjoyable book which I found to be involving, charming and entertaining. Originally published in four ebooks, this paperback edition drew me in for the four sections which actually flowed very well. Fearne is a lovely character whose honest, if fictional, progress is far from smooth but really engaging. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it as an wonderfully escapist read.