In Happy Place, Emily Henry writes with the right amount of drama, love and feeling. You get to know the characters bit by bit, falling more in love with them every chapter. Saying goodbye to summer is never easy, especially not with this book.
Happy Place could be a storyline of the 90s series Friends, but on a holiday. Six college friends meet up every summer in a cottage in Maine. Every year, for ten years, they celebrate the lobster festival with its tons of traditions. But this year is their last one. The cottage has been sold, which means the end of an era. Some want to relive what they’ve been doing for the last ten years. Others are struggling with personal problems.
Harriet is in her late twenties, studying to be a neurosurgeon. Every year she goes to the cottage in Maine, her happy place. But this year, it turns out her happy place has become an unhappy place. She broke up with her fiancé Wyn but hasn’t told anyone. Arriving at the cottage, she discovers that her friends invited Wyn as a surprise. So as not to mess up the trip, they decide to pretend to still be lovers.
Sounds like the start of a cringy book about romance, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Emily Henry gives her characters so much depth that you can instantly feel the struggle they’re going through to become adults. They don’t want to grow out of their college friendships, but they became adults with different lives.
While you’re reading, you switch between ‘real life’ and ‘happy place’. The real-life chapters are about their last week in Maine. It could be a longwinded story about their last week. But it’s not. The history of Harriet is explained in the happy place chapters. Even though you’re switching between the present and past in different chapters, this isn’t confusing because it helps to understand the whole story and the chapters are always rounded off nicely.
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In my opinion, Emily Henry succeeded in depicting how hard it is to start your real life in your twenties. She shows the anxieties of becoming an adult with jobs and responsibilities. The characters struggle with marriage, kids and finding things to make them truly happy. I think everyone can identify with this situation.
While reading about a group of friends, which Emily Henry calls a ‘found family’, you can laugh at the jokes and funny incidents. This is a page turner that also includes beautiful detailed descriptions such as: “Butterflies move in dizzy spirals through the flowering bushes hugging the steps, the distant crash of waves the only sound.”
I fell in love with the book after the first chapter. At first I thought that it was just another novel about romance, but Emily Henry put so much emotion into the book. I feel like that’s really a skill you need to master. The depth makes it so much more interesting. I could recognise myself in the struggles of the characters, while it’s going to turn out all fine in the end. The book has a positive message. In your twenties everything is still possible, with the right people around you, to support you in every possible way.
Text: Lotte van den Hout
Photo: © Lotte van den Hout