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Family Happiness

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,085 ratings  ·  92 reviews
Polly is a happy wife and mother from a remarkable strong and attractive family -- until one day she finds herself entagled in a completely unexpected, sweet, yet painful, love affair with a painter named Lincoln Bennett.  All of Polly's beliefs about herself explode, uprooting what had seemed to be a settled -- and everlasting -- idea of family happiness.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published December 5th 2000 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 1982)
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3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,085 ratings  ·  92 reviews

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Beth Bonini
I've read this book several times at different stages of my marriage, and there is no getting away from the fact that I overly identify with its protagonist Polly Solo-Miller Demarest. I've underlined many passages in this book, and as I reread at 50 it occurs to me that those marked passages are as revealing as a diary would be. Why do some women feel that they must always serve, and be as perfect as possible, in order to be loved? I don't think my own daughters will suffer from this affliction ...more
Suanne Laqueur
Sep 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-five-stars
Update for 20th read (give or take): Seriously, can someone else besides me read this book and tell me why I like it so much when so many other people hate it?

One of my all-time absolute favorites. I read it every couple of years. It influenced me as both a reader and a writer. And you know what? Everyone I've recommended it to hated it. I mean they loathed it. I can appreciate why but I don't know why everything that irritated the shit out of them appealed to me.

I love this book. I don’t wan
Apr 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Only Laurie Colwin can write a book about someone in a happy marriage conducting a long-term affair and make you understand and care about everyone. I just love her writing.
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
What a disappointing story, about an old-money New Yorker who feels torn between her insufferable, snobbish family and her commitment-phobic artist-lover. I'm so angry, because I've really enjoyed everything else I've read by Laurie Colwin, and this book casts it all in a new light. Colwin writes about rich, well-educated, beautiful, introspective people who wear beautiful clothes and listen to classical music and drink coffee in bed and talk about love with their partners as rain taps against t ...more
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2019
I need to think about this one for a while!
Mar 27, 2013 rated it liked it
The book was published in the 1980s and it just seemed outdated. The language, attitudes. Plus it was difficult to warm up to any of the characters. Polly whined constantly about her husband--using his full name any time she referred to him. Although there were three Henry's in the book, I would have thought she could have found a better way to describe him that just as Henry Demarest. Should could have said "my Henry, or even "my husband". But to use his full name page after page seemed ridicul ...more
Jul 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
Anyone who knows me, or has read my reviews, knows that I am such a sucker for family stories.

So if I'm not completely entranced by one, you know it's pretty bad.

This book was just so freaking repetitive. There were only so many times I could read about Polly crying and telling Lincoln she felt guilty being with him. I mean really. Were I of age, it would have been a fun drinking game.

The characters were horrible -whiny and unsympathetic, dysfunctional and unlikable-in-the-bad-way. The family dy
Feb 21, 2009 rated it liked it
Her husband is a busy big-shot lawyer, her mother is an overbearing New York matron, her younger brother is an obnoxious doofus, her children are young enough to need much of her time, all leaving Polly to live a life of cheerful and successful servility. She's a paragon of perfection, yet still relegated to the supporting cast. That is until Lincoln the outre painter enters her life...

Wait a minute--there is neither a swooning woman in a bodice or a muscle man in an undone shirt on this book's
Feb 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Have I mentioned that I love Laurie Colwin? The sad thing is that there is only one more of her novels I haven't read yet.

Colwin's writing elevates the domestic fiction genre to literature that smart women will love. Every detail of the setting comforted me while the characters and dialogue exposed conflicts that live in my own heart. Subtle, gorgeous, and ultimately surprising--this book is now one of my all time favorites.
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Laurie Colwin is one of my favorite authors. Makes me sad that she died so young! Her novels are deceptively simple. She always make you think twice about the choices we make in life as women. Read her writing about food too! Excellent!
Mar 14, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Really didn't like the writing style in this one. The characters never felt real or close-- it was like being told a story about someone by someone who barely knew them. Didn't work for me.
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is the sixth Colwin book (three story collections and three novels) and this one doesn't do it for me. At first I gave this book three stars to give it some credit for good writing. But I have downgraded it to two because I felt I wasted my time reading it. The problem was that it by the time I got to the middle, I was very bored. I was still bored with it at the end.

This started out as a short story and then Colwin expanded it into a full book. But there's not enough material for a full bo
Laura K
Mar 03, 2016 rated it liked it
I liked it. Seemed like it was written earlier then the 1980s though. A reminder that you never know what is going on in someone's private life no matter how good it looks from the outside. I wanted more resolution at the end though. I really liked Polly's friend Martha and wish she had a greater presence in the book. Quotes I liked: "Did people create families in order to keep themselves from wondering what the purpose of life was?"; "She felt as if she had woken up one morning after a profound ...more
Aug 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Sera by: Picked up for challenge
Decent read about a woman who finds her sense of self through her relations with people outside of her family.

While reading this book, I thought that it was published in the 70s, because it seemed to fit the feminism movement that had evolved then. Then, I realized that the book was actually published in 1982. Once I learned that, then the book felt dated to me, because the story of the main character, Polly, seemed to be one that women may have not really identified with at that point in Americ
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Laurie Colwin’s books are kind of like Nancy Meyers movies in that they’re all about rich white people in New York who wear expensive clothes and drink a lot of coffee and have love affairs. This one is also a very 80s “can she have it all?” type of story, so of course I devoured it guiltily and with great pleasure.
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Until about a third of the way through I presumed this would, finally, sadly, be the Laurie Colwin novel that would cross over from a guilty pleasure read to indifference and disappointment. Why should I bother to care about the lives of smug, snobby high society New Yorkers?

Perfect Polly is the taken for granted daughter, sister and wife of the Solo-Miller/ Demarest families. Her life is tied up in perfect bow-ties, everything ordered, presentable and runs to the satisfaction of all others bef
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
New York family with some less than perfect ways to treat others. At center is Polly middle child and the self starter of all. She has been the super woman supreme. Expected by all of her family to take care of, manage, and instigate all things perfectly, leaving her unfulfilled, lonely, and ignored for her efforts. She definitely knows her success in being totally altruistic yet unseen by literally everyone, mostly her husband Henry D. (others men named Henry in the family) .

She has found an u
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this. I recognized myself in Polly... someone who tries to be good all the time, taking care of everyone else, expecting not to be loved if she isn't perfect. Not that I try to be perfect, but I do try to be good and I do try to make sure that I don't impede anyone else's happiness... and I definitely used to put myself near the bottom of the list. Thankfully, I don't do that as much anymore, but I definitely recognized a version of myself in Polly. Her story of confusion, pain, breakthr ...more
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love Laurie Colwin. She is the only author who can made adultery not seem so bad. Maybe if I had read the book in 1982, I wouldn't feel that way but reading it now thinking about how it was back then, I do feel for Polly. My 2017 attitude and expectations, based around a life of too much VC Andrews and Lifetime, had me worrying about a lot of things for Polly that never happen and that was a relief. Her family is awful and I always enjoy awful supporting characters.
I also like that Laurie Col
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's a pretty straightforward story: Polly, a "perfect" wife and mother, is torn between her suffocating and mildly terrible family and her lover. In the hands of a lesser writer it might be...I don't know, overwrought? But Colwin's a lovely writer and it was a great read. It helps that I love an early 80s NYC setting and stories about insufferable rich people and descriptions of characters by way of what they like to eat.
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
I discovered Laurie Colwin years ago, as she was famous for her writings on cooking. I read a couple of her books - like "Home Cooking" and it hit a note in me. I somehow found another one of her books and then decided to do some research and see what she was up to lately. Only her lately never came. She died in 1992, and luckily for me, she wrote a couple of novels and short stories. Some might say odd or quirky, but I loved them.
Jul 06, 2018 rated it liked it
I love how particular all her characters are, but the family in this book was horrid. Snobby and patriarchal - no wonder the main character broke down. But it ended before she truly effected any change in the family, so I was left feeling unfulfilled. This book is a perfect example of what 2nd wave feminists were fighting against.
Christine Newfell
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I selected this book after reading one of Elin Hildebrand's summer stories. Elin noted she was reading Family Happiness. The story aptly captures in words- Polly's feelings; a difficult task. Mothers who feel they need to be everything to everyone will relate to Polly. Good read.
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2019, archive-org
Lovely book, beautifully written. Interesting how Colwin uses the British 'mum' instead of the expected US 'mom'.

Such a shame Laurie Colwin died so young.
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Neurotic Jews living in NYC? Quirky characters, funny families? Yes please!
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Loved this super quick fun read published the year i was born-1982!!!!
Jun 20, 2019 rated it liked it
3 1/2 stars. Charming story of a woman with a close knit family and her affair. Loved the food descriptions and life in NYC.
Cynthia  Scott
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really heavy-duty look at how many kinds of love there are and how complex our lives are. It enriches us as well as making it very difficult. I loved this book.
Apr 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Family Happiness by Laurie Colwin is the story of a woman, Polly, who always does what is expected of her. She is the only daughter in a prominent family, who married the right guy, and had two nearly perfect children. She has a job, but always puts her husband's needs before her own. Until the day she finds herself swept up in an affair with a local artist. The book tracks Polly's confusion as she tries to figure out what it means to follow her own heart, and to figure out the right line to tow ...more
Oct 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
All of Colwin's books, several each of short stories and novels, are wonderful and I can't recommend them highly enough. I actually bought many of her books in hardcover, something rare for me! They are all about life and love in Manhattan. She has been described as having "very acute sensibilities," whatever those are and has also been compared to Jane Austen. Her first novel is Happy All the Time, which is about two couples who are related and are friends. My favorite book of short stories is ...more
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Laurie Colwin is the author of five novels: Happy All the Time, Family Happiness, Goodbye Without Leaving, Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object, and A Big Storm Knocked It Over; three collections of short stories: Passion and Affect, Another Marvelous Thing, and The Lone Pilgrim; and two collections of essays: Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. She died in 1992.
“La ansiedad, pensó, era como una bandada de pájaros posados en un cable telefónico. Cuando se acercaba gente echaban a volar y cuando la gente se alejaba volvían dando saltitos” 0 likes
“Polly había llorado tanto que se sentía deshidratada. El llanto juvenil es una cosa y el llanto adulto otra muy distinta. Las lágrimas de la juventud son limpiadoras, como las siestas o las duchas tonificantes. Una buena llorera hace que el joven que sufre sienta que se ha conseguido algo. Las lágrimas de la edad adulta dejan a la víctima seca y agotada. Dejan los ojos escocidos. Dejan a su paso un dolor bajo las costillas y en la frente.” 0 likes
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