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on March 21, 2003
Laurie Colwin's _Happy All the Time_ is less a comedy of manners than a comedy of the mannerisms, quirks, and idiosyncracies of four very unique friends and lovers.
Guido and Vincent (rather WASP-y, the Italian nomenclature comes from a couple of generations back) are cousins and fellow graduate students when the novel opens, perfectly situated for finding their lifemates. When Guido sees Holly in an art gallery he narrates his observations about her to Vincent. "Notice how the nose tilts," he says, and later, "Notice the arc of the arm."
"Notice the feeblemindedness that passes for wit among aging graduate students," she replies, thus setting into motion a story full of wonderful zingy dialogue as pessimists pair up with optimists and love ensues.
Published originally in 1978, _Happy All the Time_ paints both of the primary women in bold colors. Misty is a linguist, frighteningly intelligent, and determined not to let Vincent's optimism capsize her ship. Holly is self-contained and self-determined, making her own decisions without consultation with Guido, whose great passion for her leaves him in a perpetual state of befuddlement. The book is indicative of the era it's placed in, as women behave in ways which have not been modelled for them, and the men adjust their expectations accordingly. From a feminist point of view, that makes this book an interesting read.
From an escapist's point of view, this book is highly entertaining, light but not too fluffy, and thoroughly enjoyable. I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys Nora Ephron movies, Bridget Jones-type books, and satisfying endings.
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on July 10, 2000
There are not enough words to describe how much I adore Laurie Colwin. I have read all of her novels and am deeply saddened by her untimely death and the knowledge that there will be no more delightful novels by my favorite author! This was my first Colwin novel and, as soon as I finished it, I set to reading all of her other books in quick succession. There is something so utterly comforting and insightful about all of her novels and stories that feels to me like I am coming home. She makes me yearn for a New England fall and cozy apartments with a fireplace and the one you love. Her characters are so idiosyncratic that you can't help but love them and all their foibles. I have spent numerous rainy days re-reading Laurie Colwin and I believe, once you discover her, that you will do the same!
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on January 1, 1998
Guido and Vincent are cousins and best friends. Guido marries Holly, Vincent marries Misty. In the midst of this cosy foursome are a diverse assortment of friends, family, and acquaintances whose off-beat personalities are so realistic that the reader forgets these are only characters in a novel.. "Happy All the Time" is one of those rare books that you hate to see end. These are the kind of people we'd like to have in our own lives.
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VINE VOICEon August 12, 2010
Last month Old school librarian suggested I read HAPPY ALL THE TIME by Laurie Colwin. I had not heard of the book or the author before and was very interested to discover what was in store. Fortunately, my local library had a copy readily available. Originally published back in 1978, HAPPY ALL THE TIME was the third of Colwin's five novels. Along with a few short story and cooking collections, those novels made up the bulk of her writing. It seems strange now that I'd never heard of her before as her novels have none of them ever gone out of print and it appears she still has quite a large and devoted following. A fact I completely understand and that makes me quite happy now, having read this perfectly delightful novel. Thank goodness for others' book recommendations, for I am quite sure I would never have stumbled across this treat of a book on my own.

Guido Morris. Holly Sturgis. Vincent Cardworthy. Misty Berkowitz. These are the rather enchanting names of the four principal players in our little drama. Guido and Vincent have been cousins and best friends since as far back as either of them can remember. Gifted with both privilege and personality, talent and wit, the two men have somehow managed to make it past graduate school and into bona fide adulthood without ever forming permanent or lasting attachments with members of the opposite sex. But all of that is about to change when they walk past a young woman with black hair and a composed face, sitting on a bench, and Guido falls instantly and madly in love. But Holly is not looking for love and Guido finds himself in the unfamiliar agony of being in love with someone who appears all but indifferent to him. Meanwhile, Vincent is coming to terms with his scattered and perplexing love life the hard way. Unsure of how to change things, he walks into the office one day and meets Misty Berkowitz, a cantankerous young woman of Jewish extraction who loathes and distrusts everything Vincent represents. And--just like Guido--Vincent is gone in one fell swoop. But like the lovely Holly (even though the two women are night and day incarnate), Misty has no interest in being wooed. What are these two earnest young men to do in order to convince the loves of their lives that they are, in fact, meant for each other?

Readers, I was utterly charmed by this book. It is a slim, unassuming volume to be sure. But within its pages is true loveliness. HAPPY ALL THE TIME reads like Annie Hall and one of those old Cary Grant/Katherine Hepburn confections had a lovechild. There was just no way I was escaping its spell. The emotions are high and fraught with meaning, the witty banter is sophisticated in the extreme, and the costumes are elegant and timeless. Here's one of my favorite interactions between the likable Vincent and the irascible Misty:


Misty woke abruptly and felt awful. She groped around for her glasses, couldn't find them, and sat very still, looking unfocused and bereft, as if she had awakened from a kind dream to find merciless and cruel reality waiting for her. Vincent thought he understood unhappiness, but he was not sure if this was it. He sat beside her and took her hand.

"Are you going to tell me what's going on?" he said. "I can't bear to see you this way."

She shrugged her shoulders.

Vincent asked, "Does it help if I tell you I love you, or does it make it worse?"

She began to cry. It was the second time in two days, but its effect on Vincent was not dimmed by repetition.

"Okay," she said. "Here goes."

His heart seemed to stop. This was it, but what was it?

"It's not what you're thinking," said Misty, looking at his stricken face. "It's worse. You're stuck with me. This is your last chance to bail out, Vincent. I don't think we were made for each other. Maybe you were made for me, but I was made for Attila the Hun."

"Are you telling me that life with you will be a living hell?"

"I am giving you one last chance to go off and find some nicer girl," said Misty. "Someone who knows her way around a sailboat."

"That's a disgusting thing to say. Last week you gave me a very compelling analysis on the workings of my stunning intellect. Now I'm supposed to take my intellect off and go sailing?"

And besides that, there's the Jewish question," said Misty.

"Oh, that," said Vincent. "I don't notice either of us being religious. Besides, my Aunt Marcia is Jewish. She married Uncle Walter. She's everybody's favorite relative. What's the big deal?"

"Our backgrounds are different," said Misty.

"This is not worth discussing," said Vincent. "We've done very well up till now, and we'll continue to do well."

"I'm not like your other flames," said Misty. "I don't know anything about dog breeding."

"Yes, you do," said Vincent. "The night we were comparing eccentric relatives, you told me that your Aunt Harriet wanted to cross Welsh corgis and Doberman pinschers and get a vicious but barkless guard dog for sneak attacks. That will be quite sufficient. Throw in my Aunt Marcia and you can see that we are ideally suited."

Tears slid out of the corners of Misty's eyes. She put her arms around his neck.

"I'm just scared," she said. "That's all."

"That isn't all," said Vincent. "What are you scared of?"

"I don't know."

"What else don't you know?"

That's all," said Misty.

"I assume that means that you have given a good deal of analytical thought to your feelings about me."

"My feelings about you appear to transcend analysis."

"Wonderful," said Vincent. "What are they?"

"I just love you," she mumbled.

"Speak up, please," said Vincent.

"I said, I just love you. Isn't that banal?"

"What a relief," said Vincent, smiling.


Well? Don't you want to go and find this book right now? I love Vincent and Misty so much. All four of them are memorable and layered and funny and offbeat, but I ended up responding most of all to Misty. Must be that inherent awkwardness and the tendency to analyze the people around me in my head, rather than going up and talking to them that we share. Either way, Misty is a kindred spirit and I sat there rapt as she worked through her feelings and came to grips with the fact that she loved someone who appeared to be so wrong for her, someone who--deep down--she felt rather sure would up and walk away someday when he woke up and realized just who he'd married. In this book, it's not about what happens in the end, it's about how they each get there. And it's worth it, I tell you. It's light and lighthearted, told in elegant, if occasionally fussy prose, and it will lift your heart and leave you perfectly sated.
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on March 30, 1999
In the last 15 or so years, I've read this book perhaps 25 or 30 times. Each time I'm drawn into the story of four people. Laurie Colwin, who died much, much too young, had the most wonderful ability to create vivid and real characters you care about. Her warmth, wit and humor are sorely missed. There's no one who writes like she did.
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on March 22, 2000
I read her last novel, _A Big Storm Knocked it Over_ first. I loved it. This one is great too. One thing i noticed is how she likes a certain type of characters to figure in her works: the slimy boss, the garden-lover mother-in-law, the gourmet cook.
Her sense of flow is great. The ending came up easily, and i was perfectly satisfied with it.
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on July 19, 2000
Although I found the writing to be charming at times, I really didn't find it to be a compelling read. The characters are all self focused, rich and rather dull. There were just too many scenes of the characters drolly sitting around eating peach mousse with their pinkies extended. I never cared about any of the main players, and too many colorful non-plot-essential characters breezed through the pages. I need a bit more grit than this pretty little fluff ball gave me.
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on January 18, 2001
I have read this book about eight times. It is great for those rainy Sundays, snuggle on the couch, build a fire days. This is a delightful story about four quirky adults and their search for love.
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on October 10, 2001
Laurie Colwin was one of my favorite writers of the 1980's (my tastes seem to change as the decades do). I read (and proudly own) all her novels and short story collections, and her two books of essays on cooking. "Happy all the Time" happens to have been my introduction to Ms. Colwin's work, and it spurred me to read all her books. ("Happy" turned out to be my absolute favorite, though a couple of others were close seconds.)
Read this book. Read her other books. And join me in feeling very sad that this wondrous writer, whose humanity shines through in all of her work, left us all too soon.
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on November 8, 1997
This is one of those books that can change your life. Of all Colwin's remarkable gems, this is the shiniest. Assembled with the best ingredients and cooked to perfection. Funny, sharp, and resonant.
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