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A Comedy of Mannerisms
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.