This Is Happiness

Niall Williams Books

THIS IS HAPPINESS, Niall’s ninth novel was nominated for The Walter Scott prize, the IRISH BOOK AWARDS  and was listed among The Washington Post’s 50 best novels of 2019.

Read Niall’s OP ED piece in The New York Times

This Is Happiness


'Charming is one word for Williams’ prose. It is also life-affirming and written with a turn of phrase that makes the reader want to underline something on every page. I suggest we all buy his books, pushing him into that realm of globally fashionable Irish writers (which he might not care about), but more importantly, sharing with a vast audience his humane and poetic world view.'

'The Ireland that Niall Williams writes about in this novel is gone — or would be if he hadn’t cradled it so tenderly in the clover of his prose. Escaping into the pages of “This Is Happiness” feels as much like time travel as enlightenment. Halfway through, I realized that if I didn’t stop underlining passages, the whole book would be underlined. This is a story about the beginnings of love and the persistence of affection, about the loss of faith and the recovering of belief. If you’re a reader of a certain frame of mind, craving a novel of delicate wit laced with rare wisdom, this, truly, is happiness.​'

'It is why this novel is a revelation. The world is chock-full of redemption through pain and all the classes of ugliness and unhappiness that can befall a character en route there. Not this time, however. To borrow a word that crops up occasionally here, Williams' sunny, grainy, gently hilarious saga is an "elsewhere", a place of unashamed romance for a nostalgic tradition of storytelling, where exaggeration and eye twinkles might in fact just bring you closer to the truth. Sublime.'

'Admirers of Niall Williams’s Booker-longlisted History of the Rain will not be disappointed to learn that his latest novel is as good, and possibly even better. It’s set in the remote Irish village of Faha, essentially unchanged in a thousand years, in which the advent of electricity and love have the simultaneous ability to upend expectations and beliefs. What makes this so compelling and enjoyable is Williams’s transparent love of his characters and delight in his setting, a place far removed from any Oirish stereotype. Instead, he depicts somewhere that magic – man-made or otherwise – can quietly transform even the most apparently unchanging of existences.'

Williams has painted a lush, wandering portrait of Faha, a village back in time in County Clare, Ireland, a place also featured in his previous novel, “History of the Rain,” which was longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize. ... “This Is Happiness” is as full of detours and backward glances as it is of forward motion and — as befits a novel narrated by an old man who comments that “as you get toward the end, you revisit the beginning” — is centrally preoccupied with time itself. ...Be kind, he admonishes the reader directly at one point, and it’s a testament to this bighearted novel that I felt duly chastened, almost like a member of the clan.

'In this beautifully written novel, every image, every brushstroke is employed to illuminate this chrysalis-to-butterfly moment; the moment that Christy, the stranger, the bringer of electricity and light, enters Noel's life and the life of the villagers. In it, stock characters come alive; the parish priest, the local doctor, the town beauties, the village drunk, but Williams invests them all with such authenticity that you feel like you know them personally, and are wholly the better for it. A warm-hearted and life-affirming read about love and transformation.'

‘A kind of tectonic movement from spring into summer, marked by the rhythms of village life ... He has a humorist’s eye, and his own fond amusement at the people he writes about shines out through the writing. The fields of Ireland are very crowded, but by the conclusion of This Is Happiness, you feel Williams has justified adding another book to the herd.’

‘The novel is more like Synge’s Playboy than any other I can think of … On the one hand it could be described as picturesque, larger-than-life, overwritten; and on the other as lyrical, tender and sumptuously perceptive. The truth is, it is all of it.

It's funny, insightful, gorgeously full of language and, in Faha, he creates somewhere as vivid as Joyce's Dublin or Kevin Barry's Bohane. A totally unexpected joy; I was bowled over by it.

Williams has the eye of a poet and the raconteur's knack for finding a tale in the most unpromising nook of everyday life, as a now-adult Noel, summoning the Faha of his nostalgic imagination, narrates an elegiac novel that's careful always to offset the antic rural eccentricity with darker notes of loss.

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