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The Pursuit of Happiness: A Novel Paperback – October 19, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; Reprint edition (October 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439199124
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439199121
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #816,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Kennedy's 10th novel, fledgling writer Sara Smythe has defied her parents' wishes, left Hartford, and begun a literary life in post-WWII New York. She lands a sought-after job at Life magazine and frequents parties in Greenwich Village hosted by her playwright brother, Eric. There, surrounded by Communists and artists, she meets Jack Malone, a Stars and Stripes journalist. The night they spend together upends Sara's plans and sends her, Jack, and Ericon a collision course with the repressive forces of the McCarthy era. The legacy of that night extends into the next generation, where Jack's daughter, Kate, is struggling to find her own identity in modern-day Manhattan, unaware of the forces that shaped her. Kennedy tells his epic tale with a keen eye and brisk pace, confidently sweeping through historic events and the lives of his somewhat thin characters, investing most of his energy on the winningly sincere love story.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“This weighty tome is as readable as the '50s bestsellers it channels. The prolific Kennedy, known mainly in the U.K. and France, deserves a wider readership in his native United States.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Kennedy tells his epic tale with a keen eye and brisk pace.... a winningly sincere love story.” —Publishers Weekly

“Kennedy vividly depicts the heady atmosphere of post–World War II New York City, the status of working women in the 1950s, the horrors of the McCarthy era, and the ways of the heart at any time. A romantic, sweeping read that will appeal to fans of women's and historical fiction.” —Library Journal


"An engrossing novel that transcends decades.... It's a spellbinding but tragic read that you should not miss." --The Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)

More About the Author

Douglas Kennedy is the author of ten novels, including the international bestseller Leaving the World and The Moment. His work has been translated into 22 languages, and in 2007 he received the French decoration of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Born in Manhattan, he now has homes in London, Paris, and Maine, and has two children.

Customer Reviews

You feel the characters, you empathize with them.
Anuta D.
You may not find it to your liking, but there is a haunting that remains in your soul after reading this book that makes it worthwhile.
Kirk McElhearn
Douglas Kennedy tends to build up his stories to the degree that it is very disappointing When The book is ended.
louise

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Kirk McElhearn VINE VOICE on March 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
I'm not a fan of love stories, though love is part of many novels. This book, on the surface, seems to be little more than a tragic love story. But it is set during the McCarthy era in New York, and it depicts people and places with resounding veracity.
I was drawn to this by the author's other works, which can be wild, wacky and funny, but this novel is a different style for Kennedy. You may not find it to your liking, but there is a haunting that remains in your soul after reading this book that makes it worthwhile.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. Warren on November 13, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is my fourth Douglas Kennedy novel and as usual it did not disappoint. The characters are vivid - especially Sara Smythe and her brother. This author creates strong female characters who are far short of perfect but whom the reader can identify with and cheer for. There are really several love stories in this book, not just the central one . . or two. There are a few mysteries as well, one of which doesn't get cleared up until just before the book ends. What has particularly stayed with me though is the lesson that I got about McCarthyism and the House UnAmerican Activities Committee of Congress. I was born long after the 1950s and although I know what HUAC did, I never grasped how pervasive was the fear and intimidation it caused and how many people's careers or lives were ruined by it. It was quite scary to experience HUAC in the "present tense" through the lives of these characters that I became invested in. In all, this was a terrific read that I was sorry to finish.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By C. Middleton on July 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is the sixth novel that I've read by Douglas Kennedy, and all are excellent, but really, they're more than excellent, because his work overall is exceptional, the man has talent, because simply he has the novelist's skill to write a strictly transfixing tale and draw the reader in no matter the apparent banality (on the surface) of the general plot. Unfortunately I have left this particular novel till now to read, and without question it is Kennedy's best work.

The Pursuit of Happiness is a perfect example of a seemingly mundane plot:

The time is post WW2, when life's possibilities for young Americans seemed limitless.

Privileged WASP girl, Sara, defies conservative well-to-do parents, graduates Bryn Mawr, and against her parent's wishes chooses to live in Manhattan with a low paying writing position at Life Magazine. Sara's brilliant and rebellious older brother Eric Smythe is also living in the big city, writing plays and dabbling in the then "fashionable" political persuasion of communism. Both are writers and have the potential to be great ones. Sara meets handsome war time journalist, Jack Malone, (great name) at her brother's bohemian New Year's Eve party and they fall in love at first sight. They make love that night only the next morning Sara discovers Jack has to go back over seas that day but "promises" to write her three times everyday and return in nine months to live happily ever after...this never happens. Poor Sara writes him and never receives a word which proceeds to ruin her life...and on from there.
Read more ›
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on October 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
In 1945, wannabe writer Sara Smythe decides to join her playwright brother Eric in New York. Her parents are horrified that their single daughter will live the bohemian lifestyle in the notorious Greenwich Village. However, heeding Eric's advice that their hometown of Hartford is known for Twain losing money and Stevens selling insurance between writing edgy poetry, she leaves home.

Surprisingly she obtains a prestigious position at Life magazine. At one of her sibling's frequent bashes attended by Communists, artists and probably FBI agents, Sara and Stars and Stripes reporter Jack Malone meet. They share a night of passion. However, the McCarthy inquisition is just beginning tearing families and lovers apart. Years later at the funeral of Jack's wife, Sara meets his daughter divorced single mom Kate.

This is a timely exhilarating post WWII epic drama in which the tragedy of McCarthyism is what it did to split families. None of the cast is fully developed as the insightful story line focuses on what happened and what might have happened if the optimism coming out just after war ended was allowed to blossom and not be killed by unchallenged phony patriotic pedagogues. Douglas Kennedy provides a powerful profound tale with applications to subsequent eras.

Harriet Klausner
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robertomelbourne on February 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
Having visited New York in early 2001, and being a keen fan of Kennedy, I grabbed his then new work with keen interest.
Kennedy has written his most complete work to date. While his previous works were superb, ranging from travel books, to three well executed thriller-page turners, Pursuit represents an ambitious advance.
The plot centers on a relationship based in the Marcarthyist period in the US, and the principal location is New York.
Having only just visited New York for the first time, I greatly enjoyed Kennedy's description of NYC main streets and avenues that I had only just visited weeks before.
The advance for Kennedy comes in his greater scope of plot and storyline, and even his greater self confidence as a novelist. He manages to very competently convey the issues, concerns and emotions of his main character, a woman in 1950's America.
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