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The Pursuit of Happiness

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  4,524 ratings  ·  411 reviews
Manhattan, Thanksgiving Eve, 1945. The war was over, and Eric Smythe's party was in full swing. All his clever Greenwich Village friends were there. So too was his sister Sara -- an independent, canny young woman, starting to make her way in the big city. And then in walked a gatecrasher, Jack Malone -- a U. S. Army journalist just back from a defeated Germany, and a man w ...more
Paperback, 656 pages
Published May 2nd 2002 by Arrow (first published 2001)
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Christine Mathieu I think reading it with 15 is a bit too early. This book is for more mature readers who already have some life experience. Maybe in your early…moreI think reading it with 15 is a bit too early. This book is for more mature readers who already have some life experience. Maybe in your early twenties and after finishing college you will get more out of it.(less)

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4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,524 ratings  ·  411 reviews

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Tea Jovanović
May 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book I fell in love with Kennedy's writing... And bought the rights for his first (and only so far) Serbian edition... Everybody who read the book fell in love as well... but as it usually happens, when I left the publisher nobody continued to take care of "my" author... His books are big bestsellers in France as well and many of his novels made it to big screen...
MUST READ! One of my most valuable "editorial picks"...
B the BookAddict
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mish, Dale,Sharon
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Bekah
Douglas Kennedy writes women so well; he writes about how women think, like a female writer does. There is no insult meant in that comment. A wonderful story set in 1940-50s America; this novel will teach you something about McCarthyism if you are unaware of that shameful time in USA.

New Years Eve, a party at struggling playwright Eric's apartment. A gatecrasher Jack, an army journalist looks across the room at Sara, Eric's sister, and so begins a powerful but tragic love story. It is not a sog
Mar 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a 99cent special from Nook so I didn't know much about it when I started reading it, but I got so completely absorbed in the story that I couldn't put it down. It's about 500 pages and I read it in about a week. Rarely do I get so engrossed in a book but it was heartfelt, interesting, and good plot twists that I didn't see coming.
Dale Harcombe
Apr 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
The story starts with Kate at her mother’s funeral and a stranger who appears at the funeral. Then it goes back to tell is who this woman is, why she came to the funeral and what her interest is in Kate. I liked the way the story went back to fill in the background and history of Sara Smythe and Jack Malone.
This is a story of choices and consequences that have far reaching effects on others. The characters are complex and well portrayed. Even if I didn’t agree with their choices, it was easy to
Jun 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. At times, it felt a bit light and predictable, but it dealt with a very interesting time and place, and Sara was a great character. Also, unlike many books I have read, it got better and more complex as the story developed. I often find that books start well and then fizzle out. This book certainly did not follow that pattern. I think I will read another book by Kennedy sometime soon.
A tragic love story spanning a lifetime

The year is 1945 and Sara Smythe reluctantly attends her brother, Eric’s, Thanksgiving Eve party. She is swept away by the enigmatic gate-crasher, Jack Malone. Jack says he is a U.S army journalist and is being deployed to Germany the very next day, despite the war being over. Will Jack make good on his declarations of undying love and devotion or will he breaks Sara’s heart, just as Eric suspects.

The Pursuit of Happiness is set in a time of great unrest in
Stephen McQuiggan
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Awful preppy girl meets awful smug guy, falls in love, then spends the rest of the novel reflecting on it over coffee. It's an 'epic' - so expect awful kids to grow up into awful people too.
There is a section where the nightmare of Kate's domestic situation is played out as Gothic melodrama in a tiny village, under the watchful eye of the mother in law from hell, which is fantastic; as is the part exposing the pomposity and callousness of the HUAC. After that, it's all downhill.
We are constantl
Dec 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Denise by: no his other books
Shelves: fiction
This was my fifth Douglas Kennedy novel, and I was not disappointed. Kennedy is a true story-teller; I can't put his books down! The Pursuit of Happiness takes place in post-WWII and much of the plot revolves around tragic McCarthyism period in U.S. history. Young Sara Smyth moves to New York against her very staid parents' wishes where her older brother, Eric, already resides. Sara meets journalist Jack Malone at a party at Eric's house. They spend one passionate night together and fall in love ...more
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Truly outstanding. It grabbed my attention from the very first page. I highly recommend.
Wendy Ewurum
Mar 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing

The story starts of with the death of Dorothy, Kate’s mother. We see Kate trying to come to terms with the death of a complicated woman whom she loved but never understood. It is only after her mother’s death that she catches a glimpse of the magnitude of the sadness and loneliness that overshadowed 40 years her mother’s life. She learns this through a manuscript written by Sara whose life was intricately entwined with that of Dorothy for 40 years. Dorothy married and lived with a man
Apr 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Even though this was a pretty long book and there were parts that had me thinking "why am I reading this", this was a very enjoyable read.

This story tells the life mainly of Sara Smythe. I didn't expect the book to be this way but soon found it extremely enjoyable getting to know Sara. Sara was a successful writer yet her life was never complete. She had an immense love for her brother, Eric, and not only were they siblings they were friends. He would get her through many times and visa versa.
Oct 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
WOW, WOW, WOW!!!!!!! I found this book interesting on many levels. I, also, found it interesting that I had read another of Kennedy's books a while ago, "A Special Relationship". As I was reading this book, my mind went back to Kennedy's other book, because I, once again, kept thinking, "How can a man write so convincingly about women?". Until I researched Kennedy's other books on "Goodreads", I did not know the other book that kept coming to mind was written by the same author! I have recently ...more
Feb 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my 3rd Kennedy book and I'm glad it was much more like the first one I read ("Leaving the World"). I'm impressed, again, that the narrator of this book, like "Leaving," was a woman. Kennedy does a good job of using a woman's voice. I actually forgot that a man wrote it. Is that sexist? I don't know. I just know that he's a good storyteller. There always seems to be dark elements and tortured souls in his novels but not so much that you get depressed and want to give up reading. Instead, ...more
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was the first Douglas Kennedy book I read. I thought he must actually be a woman and then checked and realized he really was a man. I was blown away at his dead-on insights into the emotions of women in marriage, divorce, motherhood, grief, etc.

The book opens with a woman's loss of her mother. The roller coaster of emotions she experiences, and the way that loss leads the daughter to review the breakdown of her own marriage was very moving to me. The grief was incredibly raw to me.

And the
Oct 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: greatbooks
Somehow, whenever I'm sick I find myself reading a WWII novel, and really loving it...

(Not sure what the cause/effect relationship is here, but I'm not really complaining.)

Actually, the main story of this novel is set in the period of time immediately following WWII through the height of the McCarthy Era. Two people meet one night at a party, but life separates them and puts them on paths that really aren't headed the same way. Usually, when two characters are presented as "soul mates," I don't
Jan 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I picked this up in New Zealand. My first Douglas Kennedy experience - and definitely not my last! This guy can write! Pursuit of Happiness is written in the first person from a women's perspective, set in America during the McCarthy era. It tells the tales of the ups and downs of Sara, her brother Eric, and Jack Malone - a wayward stranger who turns up at Eric's New Years eve party.

I couldn't put this book down. Until it ended. Then I went to and ordered more Douglas Kennedy!

If you
Jan 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Easily became one of my favorite books!
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buy-on-kindle
Stunning. Beautiful writing, perfectly chosen words, a life presented with all its flaws and highs and lows. I adored every page.
Kathe Coleman
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Pursuit of Happiness by Douglass Kennedy
The measure of a great book for me is when they characters continue to reside in my head long after reading the novel. This is the case in The Pursuit of Happiness. It is a story of the forties and fifties and narrated by two characters; Kate the younger more modern women and the elder Sara self-driven writer. . .the connecting link being Kate’s father. Both characters are deeply flawed but in a way that for me was believable in a somewhat dysfunctiona
Feb 01, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had a problem with this book. It was good but there was something about it that never worked for me. Lots of drama and an interesting story but it just never had believability. I couldn't lose myself in it - I was questioning and critiquing the whole way through. I kept thinking - "that would/could never have happened". It had the potential for magic but I think, because it couldn't hold onto its connection with the real, it fell short.
John King
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This sprawling novel captures post war New York City and American mores spot on. There are not many happy people in this book but their stories help us to understand that life is to be lived in spite of our bad decisions. AND, we must learn to forgive each other's wrongful choices. At times I was reminded of those big novels of Irwin Shaw and Herman Wouk. I want to read more of Douglas Kennedy.
Archana Shrestha
Sep 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
The sharpness, the narratives, the contrast and homogeneity of post-war and post-modern eras, two brilliant defiant female narrators and all those shades of human emotions are few understatements for this book. It must have been the charm the Autumn shower did on me that I couldn't help but complete the whole thing in one read.
Olga Rozhkova
Jul 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't get myself away from this book.. totally plunged into it..
The beauty of such stories is that they might really happen with people around you.
It's a book about personal choice, dignity, love and ability to forgive.
I recommend!
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
author has a gift for keeping you engaged. story of life's dissapointments and why it eventually makes sense to forgive.
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is not my favorite of Kennedy novels. Am certain the historical settings clashes for me on the pace of the storylines making difficult to be as engaing as expected. Still find him a great writer to read.
Douglas Kennedy has a way of capturing the tumult that is life - the swings between highs and lows, the drama, the staleness, and everything in between - and doing so in such a way that utterly captivates the reader. He does so this time while highlighting one of the darkest periods in American post-war history. While the post-WWII era is typically considered one of bucolic happiness, The Pursuit of Happiness explores the fleeting spirit that is happiness and the challenges faced by everyone dur ...more
Jul 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wowza. This one was a long one. That’s why I haven’t posted a review in a while. I was working my way through this bad boy, but it was definitely worth it.

This is a book you can really sink in to. It’s setting and the writing are so detailed that it kind of draws you in even if you’re reluctant to the story. Sometimes with historical novels I feel like the author really just wrote a story set in 2014 and just removed the cell phones. This book really gets into the McCarthyism era and all of the
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
What a beautiful, intelligent, engaging and immersive book.
This is the first Douglas Kennedy I have ever read and I am very much looking forward to reading more of his work based on my experience with this book.
I picked this up one evening because I couldn't find the other book I was reading at the time (my one year-old had stuffed it down the back of the bed as it goes) and I just thought I may as well start this.
I read very slowly and am often interrupted by that same one year-old I mentioned
Ricki Lewis
Oct 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Pursuit of Happiness is a family saga in which a one-night-stand on the eve of World War II leads to years of longing, unfulfilled relationships, and the wrong people married to each other. Sara Smythe, a writer, spends her life as the lover of the married Jack Malone. They eventually break up when Malone rats on Sara's brother during the McCarthy era.

The compelling story kept me reading, but the organization and the dialog nearly made me stop. On the matter of organization, the book consists m
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2016
Another entry in the category of novels with 2 time frames. In this case we start out in current time, and then through a chance encounter, hear the backstory set between WW2 and the mid50's. I loved that this novel revolved around women. There were 2-3 significant men, but the heart of the novel was about and their choices. How much do you follow convention vs your own heart? How to you respond to life's challenges? And most importantly, how do you find happiness in spite of what life throws at ...more
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Douglas Kennedy was born in Manhattan in 1955. He studied at Bowdoin College, Maine and Trinity College, Dublin, returning to Dublin in 1977 with just a trenchcoat, backpack and $300. He co-founded a theatre company and sold his first play, Shakespeare on Five Dollars a Day, to Radio 4 in 1980. In 1988 he moved to London and published a travel book, Beyond the Pyramids. His debut novel The Dead He ...more
“The only time you truly become an adult is when you finally forgive your parents for being just as flawed as everyone else.” 204 likes
“...hate is a hard thing to sustain. Grief isn't. Grief is something that can stay with you for a very long time” 7 likes
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