ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Daily Archive: 16/04/2023



April 2023



Happiness by Aminatta Forna

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
People who enjoy sweet, thoughtful books.

In a nutshell:
Two lives collide on the streets of South London.

Worth quoting:
“He wondered if one day every feeling in the world would be identified, cataloged and marked for eradication. Was there no human experience that did not merit treatment now?”

Why I chose it:
It was recommended to me as part of a book spa.

What it left me feeling:

This is an interesting book that I found more challenging to read than I expected.

The plot: Attila is a psychiatrist originally from Ghana who has traveled around the world to various war zones and other areas filled with trauma, assisting the traumatised. He is in London, where he once lived, for a conference. Jean is a scientist originally from the US who tracks foxes in South London. Their lives intersect when the son of a family friend of Attila’s goes missing after his mother is wrongly detained by immigration authorities.

The book takes place primarily where I live and work, so I recognize so many of the geographic markers, which made the book so vivid for me – I go for runs in the part where Jean is tracking foxes, walk along the street where Attila meets with someone caring for another friend of his. I regularly see foxes on my morning runs, and had a fox den with three pups behind the garden of my first flat here. So in some ways I could see the scenes of the book playing out as clearly as if I were watching them on screen.

The book deals with so many themes – aging, family, community, immigration, prejudice, racism, love, loss, trauma. It looks at the conclusions people jump to, and the pathologizing of human emotions. It explores how people relate to people they love, how the decisions we make can take us far from what we once thought of as home, and how we build new lives.

The book moves through time a lot, but I found it a bit harder to follow in this book than in similar ones. That didn’t make it bad, or wrong, and I can see the thread and the reasoning behind it, but I’m not sure it worked that well for me. That said, it is definitely a book that I will think about for a long while.

Recommend to a Friend / Keep / Donate it / Toss it:
Donate it