Kyllmen's Literary Review - Douglas Kennedy's The Pursuit of Happiness

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Welcome to Kyllmen' Weekly Literary Review!

This is issue 3 of my literary review. This week featuring a book I read a few years back as part of a study of McCarthyism in my English class.

As always, if you have any idea as to what I could improve, feel free to tell me! Any typo, any grammar/spelling mistakes, tell me, I'm here to learn! :) And once again, if it's perfect, tell me too :p

This week's book - The Pursuit of Happiness, by Douglas Kennedy.

Brief Summary - Kate Malone is attending her mother's funeral when she notices the attention an old lady is paying her from afar. She has no idea who she is or what she wants. Until that same woman leaves her a package on her front door containing her autobiography.

Reluctant at first, she finallly gives in and reads the book. It turns out the woman is Sara Smythe, someone she has never met but who claims to be Kate's father's first love. Sara's book starts on Thanksgiving's eve 1945 in New York, the night she met Jack Malone. It tells us about her life after she met him, her relationship with her brother. Who is this woman to Kate? Why did she try to contact her now, after her mother's death? (hint - If I told you anything it would be a huge spoiler, read it!)

Review - 8/10. This book is a bit longer than the two other books I reviewed, but it is great. The story is well-written, with just enough suspense to make you want to stay up late at night to read the next chapter; just the right amount of romance to go all "awwww, that's so sweet" (in a very manly voice of course); just enough tragedy to make you tear up a little (very manly tears obviously); and with very humane characters, to whom you can easily identify.

This book also allowed me to learn a lot about McCarthyism and the Communist witch hunt that took place in the early 50s. One of the characters gets caught up in the naming game and Douglas Kennedy uses this to show the complete process of slandering McCarthy used, from the unofficial FBI interrogation through the "red branding" all the way to the HUAC hearing in Washington DC.

What I disliked about this book though is how it was organised around an embedded story. We start with Kate Malone mourning her mother, dealing with her divorse and stuff. Then we dive in 1950s New York and we don't come back to Kate until 300 pages. It got quite confusing when it actually got back to her point of view, I had almost forgotten about her.

More about the book - This book was released in 2001 and received an overall good welcome from readers and journalist. I can't find much from the book other than that it was used as a subject for the French Baccalaureat (that's the exam you have to take at the end of high school to allow to enter universities/have a half-decent job) a few years back.

More about the author - Douglas Kennedy was born in New York City in 1955. He started as a playwright for BBC, before turning to travel books. The book that made him famous was The Big Picture in 1997. I have also read The Woman in the Fifth and Five Days from this author, both romances (puke)

The first one was actually good, there was a fantastic, very "Stephen King"-like side to it. The second one was awfully cheesy though.

Previous Reviews -