'It's the way things work, isn't it? Chance, happenstance..and choice. Things might happen accidentally...but then we make choices. That's what we have to live with; not the accident, the fluke - but the choices we make in the wake of it. Because they really determine our fate.'
Manhattan, Thanksgiving eve, 1945. The war is over, and Eric Smyth'e party was in full swing. All his clever Greenwich Village friends were there. So too, was his sister, Sara - an independent, canny young woman, starting to make her way in the big city. And then in walked a gatecrasher, Jack Malone - U.S Army journalist just back from a defeated Germany, and a man whose world-view did not tally with that of Eric and his friends.
This chance meeting between Sara and Jack - and the choices they both made in the wake of it - would eventually have profound consequences, both for themselves and for those closest to them. And the effect of their actions would reverberate within their families for decades afterwards.
Set amidst the dynamic optimism of Post-War New York and the subsequent nightmare of the McCarthy witch-hunts, The Pursuit of Happiness is a great tragic love story; a tale of divided loyalties, decisive moral choices, and the random workings of destiny.
His most ambitious novel to date, bestselling author Douglas Kennedy has written an intimate epic of immense emontional power.
Douglas Kennedy's fourth novel is set in New York, and is written from the viewpoints of two women. The first is Kate, divorced and discontented. The novel opens at her mother's funeral, where she notices a striking, watchful stranger in her 70s. This woman, Sara Smythe, soon contacts Kate and without any explanation asks, insists even, that they should meet. Sara tells Kate that her father Jack, who died when Kate was a baby, was the love of her life. Then, only 60 pages into the novel, a bold switch of reader involvement is required, as Sara's written account of her life and her hidden love story fill the bulk of the novel. Sara also had a brother Eric, with whom she had a wonderful bantering relationship but also one of deepest affection and loyalty. She meets Jack Malone on wartime leave and her love for him is immediate, though he has to return for duty abroad the very next day. Despite his earnest promises, she does not hear from him for four years. Only much later does she learn that a casual relationship of his in Britain during the war led to pregnancy and a reluctant marriage. Their chequered love relationship continues amid the deepening horror of the McCarthy witch-hunts, about which Kennedy writes with passion and very well. Eric, who had been a member of the Communist Party in his youth, is drawn into the nightmare of being pressured to 'name names'. If he does not, he will not only be sacked, but exposed as gay. Eric and Jack dislike each other, but Jack becomes very supportive - until the truth of the complex network of betrayal emerges. Eric's downfall and Sara's agony over him and her flawed and adulterous relationship with Jack are movingly told. Choices have to be made, with tragic consequences. The last 30 pages return to Kate, and her reactions, and how these revelations about the past help to shift her own entrenched obstinacies. The Pursuit of Happiness is a most ironic title for this thoughtful, involving book, but a wiser Kate will continue to try to 'make things work'. (Kirkus UK)
Number Of Pages: 656
Published: June 2002
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 12.9 x 4.0
Weight (kg): 0.457