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A reader's guide to The Promise Of Happiness

Updated Thursday, 1st June 2006

Justin Cartwight's novel is a intimate and moving portrait of the challenges facing a middle-class family.

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Our June book is The Promise of Happiness by Justin Cartwright.

This novel was highly recommended by our forum contributor Shale. It focuses on an English middle-class family – indeed Cartwright himself has referred to it as a reinvention of the so-called Aga-saga, adding that he was aiming to produce something serious, modern and contemporary.

He has also said that he believes consciousness is the subject of modern novels, and that it is possible to explore life’s big questions within a domestic setting.

Family at sunset Creative commons image Icon pyrat_wesly under CC-BY-NC under Creative-Commons license

Charles and Daphne Judd are retired, and live in the Cornish village of Trebetherick (where John Betjeman is buried). However they have not settled happily there: Charles has never recovered his equanimity after being ousted from his accountancy job; Daphne has to cope with his simmering resentment and frustration.

The Judds have three grown-up children: entrepreneur Charlie (on the verge of becoming a dotcom millionaire); Sophie (the family rebel, who has a drug problem), and Juliet. As the novel opens, Ju-Ju (as she is known) has been serving a two-year prison sentence in America for committing art fraud, and somehow the Judds have to come to terms with this.

The narrative style is interesting: basically it is third person, but occasionally first person comments are used.

Some critics have waxed lyrical about the novel, referring to the potential for ‘reunion’, ‘redemption’, ‘renewal’ and ‘resurrection’; others have found it depressing.

Whether this book can deliver us happiness remains to be seen, but hopefully it will generate some discussion in the comments area below!





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