“Happiness is Easy” By Edney Silvestre

WHY DID I WANT TO READ THIS BOOK?

I randomly found this book at a £1 sale in Waterstones. Simply put, I chose it because it was thin, about an advertising director, and Brazilian(Fact of the day:Mariana, the other half of this blog, is half Brazilian). I was drawn to the story and I found myself wanting to read more about the Brazilian society.

PLOT(from the book cover)

Olavo Bettencourt is an important man, a man of spin. With Brazil adjusting to the new idea of democracy, his PR firm holds the balance of power in its hands. Which has also made Olavo very rich, if not very popular.

Loathed by his trophy wife and admired in a web of political corruption that spreads from Sao Paolo to Switzerland, Israel and New York, Olavo is an obvious target for extortion. And what better leverage can there be but the kidnapping of his only son.

Except that child, on his way home from school in Olavo’s armour-plated car, deep into his colouring book as the gang closes in…

He’s not Olavo’s son.

IS HAPPINESS EASY?

I have mixed emotions about this book. I experienced it as pretty average to be honest with you. The story is interesting and keeps you on your feet, but I can tell it’s a book I’ll quickly forget once I’m done with it.

Ohappiness-is-easy-cover-e1404243528290ne storyline felt unnecessary as it didn’t truly cross paths with what was clearly considered the ‘main story.’ The way I see it, this specific storyline served as a backstory to further demonstrate one important point: Brazil is an difficult country for a poor person to live in and corruption is everywhere. Which, indeed, is quite an interesting storyline, but takes valuable pages away from the what I considered the ‘main’ plot.

The book criticises corruption and the Brazilian system and does so in an good way, but as a non-Brazilian I felt lost at times, especially when it was dealing with elections. However, I feel I have gained an insight into what Brazil is like, from an insider’s perspective, which makes it worth the read.
Mara was the character I was most intrigued by. She lived an unfulfilling life, while still having access to the things that supposedly make you happy. She goes through a change in this book that I quite enjoyed reading.

 

HAVE YOU READ ANY INTERESTING BOOKS FROM BRAZIL?

 

‘Stoner’ by John Williams

Stoner

Author: John Edward Williamsjohn-williams-stoner
Published: 1965 by Viking Press
Pages: 288
Goodreads rating: 4.27

Why did I want to read this book?

For the past two years or so I’ve seen this book everywhere. It kept showing up with it’s enticing covers and positive reviews and I found a deep desire to read it. Some called this novel ‘perfection.’ While that is a lucid term I felt drawn to it and that initial attraction bloomed into an admiration and affection that few books are able to create.

What is it about?

Williams begins the book by telling you how it goes. You know how it is going to end immediately, but that does not inhibit you as a reader. The following story is told almost painfully chronologically from his last days of school until his death.

Stoner leaves his parents’ farm to study agriculture at university. He then falls in love with English literature and so he never leaves the university. After graduating he goes on to teaching and doesn’t ever stop. He meets a girl, they have daughter, they buy a house, they life their lives, but it is not a successful marriage or a great life.

Williams’ great creation

Williams has written something ordinary so beautifully I can’t seem to stop thinking about it. His careful wording and honest, straightforward storytelling is compelling. Sometimes, I bookmarked a page solely because I wanted to reread a specific passage.

“Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read; and the serenity for which he labored was shattered as he realized the little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know.”

Stoner is remarkably unremarkable and so is his life. Still you are left with the feeling that things could not have gone any other way. All the characters are irrevocably themselves and there is no one to blame for whatever happens because it is simply who they are.

What was most painful while reading the book was Stoner’s relationship with his daughter. If there is one thing which is true in this book it is the fact that Stoner loved his daughter, Grace. He was her primary caretaker as his wife struggled mentally. When his wife came back after some time to herself she punished Stoner by keeping Grace away from him and turning her into someone she was not. The painful part was that Stoner let her. A quiet frustration blossomed and I wanted to yell at him – how can you let yourself be distanced so? Stand up to your wife. Take care of your daughter! –

At some point Grace stopped being her own person and painfully put her mother’s needs before her own. Nonetheless she sealed her fate the only way she knew how and ended up living a life dominated by quiet desperation. She was the person for whom I most hoped for a blissful life, but she was not destined for it. When Stoner is nearing his last days she comes up to visit and this is what he notes of her:

They talked late into the night, as if they were old friends. And Stoner came to realize that she was, as she had said, almost happy with her despair; she would live her days out quietly, drinking a little more, year by year, numbing herself against the nothingness her life had become. He was glad that she had that, at least; he was grateful that she could drink.

 

This is not a happy book. It is filled with disappointments that set deep marks in everyone involved. Its linear progression is unusual and refreshingly natural, while the plot is undoubtedly depressing. After finishing it I was left feeling melancholy, looking back on a life I never lived myself. I love books that can make me feel, and Stoner is one of them.

stoner