Happiness by Aminatta Forna


London. A fox makes its way across Waterloo Bridge. The distraction causes two pedestrians to collide--Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes, and Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist there to deliver a keynote speech. From this chance encounter, Aminatta Forna's unerring powers of observation show how in the midst of the rush of a great city lie numerous moments of connection.Attila has arrived in London with two tasks: to deliver a key...

Details Happiness

Release DateMar 6th, 2018
PublisherAtlantic Monthly Press
GenreFiction, Contemporary, Literary Fiction

Reviews Happiness

  • Diane S ☔
    A Quiet and contemplative novel which begins with a chance meeting on the Waterloo bridge brings together two people, both emotionally wounded. Two people, Jean a woman who studies animals in urban areas and Attila, who is an expert in PTSD in refugees. An unusual friendship will develop between the two, and maybe a hope for more. Although their studies differ in theory, in essence they are both studying the behavior of those, whether animal or h...
  • Fran
    A chance encounter on Waterloo Bridge, London. Theatregoers, en masse, stream out into a sleety night. Heavy foot traffic on Waterloo Bridge startles a fox. Two pedestrians crash with the woman falling to the ground. The gentleman helps her up.Dr. Attila Asare, a psychiatrist from Ghana, has traveled to London to deliver a keynote speech at a psychiatry conference. For years, Attila has worked in war zones, specializing in trauma experienced by s...
  • PattyMacDotComma
    4★“‘Fast food. Fried chicken, burgers, kebabs – the sidewalks have turned into an “all you can eat” buffet for foxes. The same is true in cities the world over.”Jean has a small grant to study urban foxes in London and supplements it with money earned from “wilding” people’s urban domains, planting vegetable and wildflower gardens on balconies and rooftops. Her business card reads “Jean Turane. Wild Spaces.”She’s a divor...
  • Hugh
    Aminatta Forna has been established as one of my favourite writers ever since I read The Memory of Love. Two of her other books - The Devil That Danced on the Water and The Hired Man are also among my favourites. So my expectations for this one were very high, and I was not disappointed.Like The Hired Man this one starts quietly and builds towards a moving resolution. The opening tells of a wolfer (wolf hunter) in Massachusetts in 1834 but most o...
  • Hannah
    I was sure I would adore this book - and I enjoyed plenty of it, but parts left me bored and slightly confused. This is a story of chance and coincidence, of strangers meeting and lives slowly changing - and I loved that aspect of it. But it is also a book about animals in urban places - and that I was not so keen on.Aminatta Forna tells her story slowly and considerately. I had the impression that every word, every sentence was placed very thoug...
  • Emma
    A very thought provoking book. Is there such a thing as normal? In the West we are sanitised from death to a large extent- bereavement and loss can be all consuming. But in other war torn parts of the world, death can be an everyday part of life. Does trauma necessarily mean that we are damaged? Or does it mean that we are only changed?“The trouble with happiness, thought Attila, was that, perhaps because infants seemed such happy creatures, pe...
  • Michelle
    3.5 starsHappiness is a slow burn that took a while to get into at first. Yet there is so much depth to this book that one cannot easily dismiss it. Flashbacks and long ago histories are used to show that coincidence does not exist. Instead Forna chooses to highlight the inter-relatedness of humans to one another and to our environment. In this way Happiness is a love story. One that is honest and tenderly develops over time. Early on we are intr...
  • Claire McAlpine
    Wolf, coyote, fox, humanTrauma, suffering, damageHappiness, hopeJean, Attila, LondonDoormen, Security men, Street cleaners, A man painted silverA Study into the urban foxA keynote conference speech on traumaGhana, Americawar zones, negotiations, danger,a hatred of nature, that which man can not control or profit fromloved ones lostRosie, EmmanuelAma, TanoMaryseHappiness opens with the tale of a wolf hunter in the US called in to track a wolf that...
  • Sara
    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is a story of serendipity. The chance meeting of two strangers on Waterloo bridge caused by a fox. What follows is a story that transcends time, culture, and what it is to be truely happy. This is a complicated tale, with an uneasy structure. It travels backwards and forwards between places and people, meaning it can be difficult to commit and get deeply involved with all of th...
  • Rachel
    I'm so conflicted about Happiness. I think there's a really extraordinary novel in here - I just think it occasionally gets too caught up in its meandering structure, and loses focus too often. At its best, it's striking and thought-provoking; at its worst, it's a slog.Happiness is a quiet, contemplative novel that meditates on themes like trauma, cultural differences, the relationship between humans and animals, and what it means to be happy. Th...
  • Julie Christine
    "How do we become human except in the face of adversity?"This elegantly written and richly cast novel speaks of adversity, both personal and political, that tests our willingness to greet the world with compassion, to believe in the possibility of happiness. Attila Asare, a Ghanian psychiatrist and expert on PTSD, and Jean Turane, an American wildlife biologist, meet by chance, and then chance again, in central London. Jean is living in London, c...
  • Andrea
    I just adored this book. It spoke to me on so many levels and I didn't want it to end. But end is inevitable, so as it was drawing to its conclusion I found myself instead wishing I could sit down and have a chat with... the author? ... maybe the character, Attila? I'm not fussy - either would do!One evening, crossing Waterloo Bridge in London, Jean runs into Attila. Literally, ending up on the ground. She is a divorced American wildlife biologis...
  • Jerrie (redwritinghood)
    This is a gentle, subtle story about human suffering and resilience. There are some beautiful passages, but I sometimes struggled to see how the parts of the story fit together. Overall, though, this is a moving story about the acceptance of impermanence and the resilience that leads us and the natural world to survive.
  • Neil
    You could accuse Forna of over-reliance on "coincidence" to drive her plot forward. But one of her characters attempts to cover that off for us:"So … you say it is a coincidence we have met three times. What if I tell you I don’t believe in coincidences? … But what we call coincidences are merely normal events of low probability."Fundamentally, her character is explaining that if you join the dots leading up to an event, you will see that w...
  • Lark Benobi
    What a wonderful story. The ending gave me exactly the feeling of that scene in a film where the hero has made a great sacrifice, and now must die alone, as snow is falling. To carry my filmic metaphor to ridiculous lengths I'll add that the whole book feels like an old film that was shot on nitrate-based material, and it has been not well cared for, or properly stored, so there are many scenes that should be there, but the frames have dulled ove...
  • Lola Et La Vie
    The premise of two strangers meeting on Waterloo Bridge because of an urban fox was enough to make me want to read this book. I lived in London for ten years and the city and its fox population have a special place in my heart. And now, so has this lovely beautifully crafted novel.This is a story of two people who have already had a life. Throughout the book we get glimpses of the past that has shaped them into the people they are in the present....
  • Sofia
    A lovely great read. When I started highlighting as I read I knew I had found something good. And I did not inundate you with my highlighted updates only because I read an advanced readers copy of this, so consider yourselves spared.This was my first encounter with Forna and I definitely do not want it to by my last. I like how she writes, how her words are punches in a paragraph and caresses in another. Her ability to see, to join dots is one I ...
  • Lynne
    I will totally admit that I started this book and wondered "what am I reading?"I didn't understand the first chapter about the wolves ... I couldn't understand the connection once I was introduced to Attila or to Jean. But I continued to read and was able to connect some dots; the thing I realized was that I really liked the characters - I liked where their stories were going, and I thought it was so well written I didn't want to put it down.Hone...
  • Anne
    What do wolves, foxes and immigrants have in common? In this multi-faceted epic novel about the battle for survival on the margins of society, the author explores issues of tolerance and co-existence against a background of violent culture clashes and territorial disputes around the globe. The two main characters are well fleshed out with convincing back stories and Forna is careful to prevent political posturing or polemic from overwhelming the ...
  • Andre
    Perplexing. There is a lot going on in this novel and I’m not sure how much happiness is contained within. Ms. Forna is attempting to show the interrelatedness of lives that can intersect and cause a change reaction. Attila and Jane meet in London, totally by chance, she bumps into him on a bridge, and no words are exchanged initially but they see each other later, again by chance and converse with each other, and those exchanges form the basis...
  • Jennifer (JC-S)
    ‘At that time of the day Waterloo Bridge is busy with shoppers and weekend workers who make their way on foot across the bridge to Waterloo Station.’On that day and at that time, a fox makes its way across Waterloo Bridge. Among those distracted by the sight are Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes, and Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist in London to deliver a keynote speech at a conference. This chance encounter defines a starti...
  • Anne
    What do wolves, foxes and immigrants have in common? In this multi-faceted epic novel about the battle for survival on the margins of society, the author explores issues of tolerance and co-existence against a background of violent culture clashes and territorial disputes around the globe. The two main characters are well fleshed out with convincing back stories and Forna is careful to avoid the temptation for polemic to overwhelm the narration.W...
  • Lorrie
    This is a multi-layered fictional account of a man’s introspection and love for three different women, while at the same time allowing the reader to briefly glimpse the lives of those he loved. Intermingled throughout the story are wild fox and coyotes (which seems very knowledgeable), plus wild birds. The author weaves the mating of humans and the wild rather interestingly. The reader is left with hope.
  • ~☆~Autumn♥♥
    Happiness was very sad for me and I wanted to cry over the coyotes, foxes and green parakeets but I learned something important:"What if you were to kill a number of them, ten percent of the total population, say? They'd reproduce at a faster rate. We call it hyper-reproduction. Have larger litters of cubs. Begin to mate younger, at a year instead of two years. All animals do it, not just coyote," said Jean. "Humans do it after a war. The last ti...
  • Carol Peters
    Wolves, coyotes, foxes, tracking collars, rooftop gardens, urban solitude, a lost boy, a solo dancer, everyone's an immigrant, trauma, urban community, psychopomp debunking — what a good novel.
  • Sue
    Review copy courtesy of Grove Atlantic via NetGalley, many thanks for the opportunity. I’ve not read Aminatta Forna’s earlier novel ‘The Memory of Love’, though I saw it on bookshop shelves at the time of publication and admired its cover, but I shall be seeking it out as a matter of urgency as a result of my reading this latest of hers and how interested it has made me in Sierra Leone and its recent history. This is an educational experi...
  • Peter
    Adaptability Aminatta Forna doesn’t just write stories to captivate us for a few hours, she challenges us to think about our homogeneity with the world and how we share this world with other living things. She invites us to consider our relationships with others, both at a personal and societal level. Should everything that exists have a simple slap-on label? Dogs good! Foxes bad! Bad destroy !! Jean, is an urban wildlife biologist, studying wi...
  • Mary
    Engaging while I was reading it but found I had to make myself pick it back up again. I didn't connect to the two main characters and found the development of their relationship lacking in chemistry and hard to believe particularly when in most of the novel they are separate. The two story lines; Attlia/Jean and nature never merged, I felt pulled in two directions and would preferred the nature one or the Attlia/Jean with more chemistry.
  • Krystal
    This insightful novel captures the interconnectedness of humans and animals alike as it spans across time, continents, circumstances and emotions, with a diversity of characters.