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Happiness

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  1,147 ratings  ·  255 reviews
London. A fox makes its way across Waterloo Bridge. The distraction causes two pedestrians to collide--Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes, and Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist there to deliver a keynote speech. From this chance encounter, Aminatta Forna's unerring powers of observation show how in the midst of the rush of a great city lie numerous moments ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published March 6th 2018 by Atlantic Monthly Press
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Diane S ☔
Apr 28, 2018 rated it liked it
A Quiet and contemplative novel which begins with a chance meeting on the Waterloo bridge brings together two people, both emotionally wounded. Two people, Jean a woman who studies animals in urban areas and Attila, who is an expert in PTSD in refugees. An unusual friendship will develop between the two, and maybe a hope for more. Although their studies differ in theory, in essence they are both studying the behavior of those, whether animal or human, who were forced out of their natural environ ...more
Fran
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A chance encounter on Waterloo Bridge, London. Theatregoers, en masse, stream out into a sleety night. Heavy foot traffic on Waterloo Bridge startles a fox. Two pedestrians crash with the woman falling to the ground. The gentleman helps her up.

Dr. Attila Asare, a psychiatrist from Ghana, has traveled to London to deliver a keynote speech at a psychiatry conference. For years, Attila has worked in war zones, specializing in trauma experienced by survivors. He is a big man with a hearty appetite.
...more
Peter
Adaptability
Aminatta Forna doesn’t just write stories to captivate us for a few hours, she challenges us to think about our homogeneity with the world and how we share this world with other living beings. She invites us to consider our relationships with others, both at a personal and societal level. Should everything that exists have a simple slap-on label? Dogs good! Foxes bad! Bad destroy !!

The main character, Jean, is an urban wildlife biologist, studying wildlife-human coexistence. Several
...more
Hugh
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, read-2018
Aminatta Forna has been established as one of my favourite writers ever since I read The Memory of Love. Two of her other books - The Devil That Danced on the Water and The Hired Man are also among my favourites. So my expectations for this one were very high, and I was not disappointed.

Like The Hired Man this one starts quietly and builds towards a moving resolution. The opening tells of a wolfer (wolf hunter) in Massachusetts in 1834 but most of the book is set in modern London, making this th
...more
PattyMacDotComma
4★
“‘Fast food. Fried chicken, burgers, kebabs – the sidewalks have turned into an “all you can eat” buffet for foxes. The same is true in cities the world over.”

Jean has a small grant to study urban foxes in London and supplements it with money earned from “wilding” people’s urban domains, planting vegetable and wildflower gardens on balconies and rooftops. Her business card reads “Jean Turane. Wild Spaces.”

She’s a divorced American with an ex-husband, Ray, a perfectly decent fellow who absolute
...more
Hannah
Mar 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, fiction
I was sure I would adore this book - and I enjoyed plenty of it, but parts left me bored and slightly confused. This is a story of chance and coincidence, of strangers meeting and lives slowly changing - and I loved that aspect of it. But it is also a book about animals in urban places - and that I was not so keen on.

Aminatta Forna tells her story slowly and considerately. I had the impression that every word, every sentence was placed very thoughtfully and carefully. While I can appreciate her
...more
Emma
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very thought provoking book. Is there such a thing as normal? In the West we are sanitised from death to a large extent- bereavement and loss can be all consuming. But in other war torn parts of the world, death can be an everyday part of life. Does trauma necessarily mean that we are damaged? Or does it mean that we are only changed?
“The trouble with happiness, thought Attila, was that, perhaps because infants seemed such happy creatures, people were led to believe that happiness came with a
...more
Michelle
Mar 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: net-galley, 2018, diaspora
3.5 stars
Happiness is a slow burn that took a while to get into at first. Yet there is so much depth to this book that one cannot easily dismiss it. Flashbacks and long ago histories are used to show that coincidence does not exist. Instead Forna chooses to highlight the inter-relatedness of humans to one another and to our environment. In this way Happiness is a love story. One that is honest and tenderly develops over time. Early on we are introduced to Jean, a wildlife biologist studying cani
...more
Julie Christine
"How do we become human except in the face of adversity?"

This elegantly written and richly cast novel speaks of adversity, both personal and political, that tests our willingness to greet the world with compassion, to believe in the possibility of happiness.

Attila Asare, a Ghanian psychiatrist and expert on PTSD, and Jean Turane, an American wildlife biologist, meet by chance, and then chance again, in central London. Jean is living in London, conducting a study on the urban fox phenomenon; Att
...more
Claire McAlpine
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Wolf, coyote, fox, human
Trauma, suffering, damage
Happiness, hope

Jean, Attila, London

Doormen, Security men, Street cleaners, A man painted silver

A Study into the urban fox
A keynote conference speech on trauma

Ghana, America

war zones, negotiations, danger,
a hatred of nature, that which man can not control or profit from
loved ones lost

Rosie, Emmanuel
Ama, Tano
Maryse

Happiness opens with the tale of a wolf hunter in the US called in to track a wolf that is believed to have been killing sheep. He observ
...more
Rachel
I'm so conflicted about Happiness. I think there's a really extraordinary novel in here - I just think it occasionally gets too caught up in its meandering structure, and loses focus too often. At its best, it's striking and thought-provoking; at its worst, it's a slog.

Happiness is a quiet, contemplative novel that meditates on themes like trauma, cultural differences, the relationship between humans and animals, and what it means to be happy. The novel begins with a chance encounter between two
...more
Sara
Feb 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, contemporary, fiction
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is a story of serendipity. The chance meeting of two strangers on Waterloo bridge caused by a fox. What follows is a story that transcends time, culture, and what it is to be truely happy.

This is a complicated tale, with an uneasy structure. It travels backwards and forwards between places and people, meaning it can be difficult to commit and get deeply involved with all of the stories. I'm not a fan of this kind of story tel
...more
Lark Benobi
Apr 19, 2018 rated it liked it
What a wonderful story. The ending gave me exactly the feeling of that scene in a film where the hero has made a great sacrifice, and now must die alone, as snow is falling. To carry my filmic metaphor to ridiculous lengths I'll add that the whole book feels like an old film that was shot on nitrate-based material, and it has been not well cared for, or properly stored, so there are many scenes that should be there, but the frames have dulled over, or blooms of sepia have obscured a critical sce ...more
·Karen·
An ambitious novel, magnificently executed. I have no idea why I had not heard of Ms Forna before. A joyful moment: discovering an author whose work you appreciate and then finding there's lots more.

Love is a gamble, the stake is the human heart. The lover holds his or her cards close, lays them out one at a time and watches each move of the other player. To whom do you go first? This is the 'tell' of love. When a thing happens, be it good or bad, when you pick up the telephone or push through a
...more
Andrea
I just adored this book. It spoke to me on so many levels and I didn't want it to end. But end is inevitable, so as it was drawing to its conclusion I found myself instead wishing I could sit down and have a chat with... the author? ... maybe the character, Attila? I'm not fussy - either would do!

One evening, crossing Waterloo Bridge in London, Jean runs into Attila. Literally, ending up on the ground. She is a divorced American wildlife biologist, living in London while she conducts a study of
...more
Neil
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, netgalley
You could accuse Forna of over-reliance on "coincidence" to drive her plot forward. But one of her characters attempts to cover that off for us:

"So … you say it is a coincidence we have met three times. What if I tell you I don’t believe in coincidences? … But what we call coincidences are merely normal events of low probability."

Fundamentally, her character is explaining that if you join the dots leading up to an event, you will see that what might look like a random meeting is, in fact, almost
...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a gentle, subtle story about human suffering and resilience. There are some beautiful passages, but I sometimes struggled to see how the parts of the story fit together. Overall, though, this is a moving story about the acceptance of impermanence and the resilience that leads us and the natural world to survive.
Gumble's Yard
May 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
The book has two main protagonists – Attila and Jean.

Attila is Ghanian, a psychiatrist who specialises in PSTD and in particular in the treatment of civilians in war zones. Recently widowed – his wife Maryse dying while he was in Iraq negotiating a hostage release, he is visiting London to speak at a conference. While there he is asked to check on his niece who has lost contact with her family - which quickly turns into a search for her young son after he absconds from temporary foster care afte
...more
Kathryn
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Jean is a research biologist, who has moved temporarily to England to do a research project counting the number of foxes living in London. While there, she meets an attractive African Psychiatrist, Attila, who is presenting a keynote speech at a Psychiatric Symposium. He arrives early so that he can make arrangements for his former lover from his college years, who developed early onset Alzheimer's and to check on a niece that no one can reach.

Little does he know that his niece has been erroneo
...more
Lola Et La Vie
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The premise of two strangers meeting on Waterloo Bridge because of an urban fox was enough to make me want to read this book. I lived in London for ten years and the city and its fox population have a special place in my heart. And now, so has this lovely beautifully crafted novel.

This is a story of two people who have already had a life. Throughout the book we get glimpses of the past that has shaped them into the people they are in the present. Atilla is a psychiatrist from Ghana, who has hist
...more
Sofia
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, arc

A lovely great read. When I started highlighting as I read I knew I had found something good. And I did not inundate you with my highlighted updates only because I read an advanced readers copy of this, so consider yourselves spared.

This was my first encounter with Forna and I definitely do not want it to by my last. I like how she writes, how her words are punches in a paragraph and caresses in another. Her ability to see, to join dots is one I want more of.

Happiness, what is it, shall we find
...more
Lynne
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I will totally admit that I started this book and wondered "what am I reading?"

I didn't understand the first chapter about the wolves ... I couldn't understand the connection once I was introduced to Attila or to Jean. But I continued to read and was able to connect some dots; the thing I realized was that I really liked the characters - I liked where their stories were going, and I thought it was so well written I didn't want to put it down.

Honestly, I can't say that "the STORY" is the best one
...more
Anni
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What do wolves, foxes and immigrants have in common?
In this multi-faceted epic novel about the battle for survival on the margins of society, the author explores issues of tolerance and co-existence against a background of violent culture clashes and territorial disputes around the globe. The two main characters are well fleshed out with convincing back stories and Forna is careful to prevent political posturing or polemic from overwhelming the narration.

With thanks to the publisher for the ARC
...more
Marianne
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5★s
“When he was in London, going to see plays and eating in fine restaurants, the city itself began to feel like a stage set, whose denizens enacted their lives against its magnificent backdrop. A theatre of delights, where nothing surely could go wrong, and if it did, all would be put right by the end of the third act.”

Happiness is the fourth novel by British author, Aminatta Forna. American urban wildlife biologist Jean Turane has been living in London for eighteen months (studying the city’
...more
Andre
Sep 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Perplexing. There is a lot going on in this novel and I’m not sure how much happiness is contained within. Ms. Forna is attempting to show the interrelatedness of lives that can intersect and cause a change reaction. Attila and Jane meet in London, totally by chance, she bumps into him on a bridge, and no words are exchanged initially but they see each other later, again by chance and converse with each other, and those exchanges form the basis of this busy novel. The prose is what carried me th ...more
Anni
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
What do wolves, foxes and immigrants have in common?
In this multi-faceted epic novel about the battle for survival on the margins of society, the author explores issues of tolerance and co-existence against a background of violent culture clashes and territorial disputes around the globe. The two main characters are well fleshed out with convincing back stories and Forna is careful to avoid the temptation for polemic to overwhelm the narration.

With thanks to the publisher for the ARC via NetGal
...more
Jan
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A quiet and fascinating novel of ideas, almost stately, that explores interconnectedness, humans’ relationships with the natural world, resilience, grief and more through the characters of a US wildlife biologist and a Ghanaian trauma psychiatrist whose paths cross in London. Meticulously written and constructed, with moments of tear-blinking sweetness. I can see why Forna is so highly regarded, and look forward to reading her backlist.
Storyheart
So beautiful, so deep, so touching.
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘At that time of the day Waterloo Bridge is busy with shoppers and weekend workers who make their way on foot across the bridge to Waterloo Station.’

On that day and at that time, a fox makes its way across Waterloo Bridge. Among those distracted by the sight are Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes, and Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist in London to deliver a keynote speech at a conference. This chance encounter defines a starting point for a series of interactions between Jean and
...more
Robert Wechsler
Dec 23, 2017 marked it as tasted
Shelves: british-lit
There’s nothing particularly wrong with this upcoming novel. It just didn’t work for me. One reason is its structure, its going back and forth between different characters and stories, present and past, is a structure that I generally don’t like, that has to win me over to work for me. Another reason is that the prose style is good, but no more (though there were a few moments). Finally, although what attracted and interested me the most was content-oriented (one character’s tracking canids, par ...more
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Play Book Tag: Happiness by Aminatta Forna - 5 stars and a heart 16 18 Jan 05, 2019 10:47AM  
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Aminatta’s books have been translated into eighteen languages. Her essays have appeared in Freeman’s, Granta, The Guardian, LitHub, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, The Observer and Vogue. She has written stories for BBC radio and written and presented television documentaries including “The Lost Libraries of Timbuktu” (BBC Television, 2009) and “Girl Rising” (CNN, 2013).

Aminatta is a Fel
...more
“The reckless open their arms and topple into love, as do dreamers, who fly in their dreams without fear or danger. Those who know that all love must end in loss do not fall but rather cross slowly from the not knowing into the knowing.” 2 likes
“There was, she thought, a moment between men and women in which a woman can no longer meet a certain man’s gaze. men held the power of the gaze, the freedom to look upon women as they pleased. In public a woman looked freely only upon men with whom there was no possibility of sex or the mistaken presumption of desire, in other words the very (very) old and the very young. In company women looked at men who might be colleagues or neighbours or married to women they knew, but even then their gaze was guarded. The moment friendship transformed into something else the woman looked away.” 1 likes
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