Review: Happily Ever After by Harriet Evans

 photo HappilyEverAfter_zpsf43bf17e.jpgTitle: Happily Ever After
Author: Harriet Evans
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 468
DOP: 2012
Stars: 3/5

After a troublesome youth, Elle is sceptic about love and only believes in the fantasized love stories from the books she reads. Once she’s found herself working for Bluebird Books publishing house, things are starting to change for her. For the first time in her life, she’s faced with long-term relationships and how to deal with them. 

Elle’s story begins when she’s still a teenager and hears her parents arguing. This immediately sets the tone for Happily Ever After. Despite its title, the book doesn’t feel very light, approaching subthemes such as escapism and alcoholism. The central theme is growing up and Harriet Evans tries her very best with Elle. However, Elle is stubborn and despite living life, she’s more than happy to escape her surrounding world by reading books, only passively accepting change. Whether this is Evans’ purpose or not, is only the question. Did she willingly write Elle as a character void of emotions? Surely, Elle isn’t happy with how things are going but somehow she’s never explicitly displaying her emotions. Instead she drinks, runs away or stays blind altogether. As the story continues, we get to see snippets of Elle’s life and how she changes from an insecure and shy girl into a confident and successful career woman. So while Elle grows up professionally, whether she does this personally remains to be seen.

On a different note, the title is confusing. Is it meant to be sarcastic or did I miss something crucial while reading the book? Happily Ever After implies that all is well in the end but is it really? Throughout the story it is clear that Elle’s family is broken and that she struggles with her life but when I was finished reading, a lot of things still felt unsolved. Then again, is reality ever truly solved? Which brings me to the next question: another purpose of the author or unintentionally bad writing?

In the end, this book left me confused. Was I supposed to feel disconnected since Elle is disconnected to the world? Perhaps if we didn’t jump as much in time and were able to read how Elle underwent the actual change it might have felt different? Now, we always saw her right before a change, or after a change but never during the change. The jumping made sense but maybe, a little less of that might have benefitted the story, making it feel more accomplished.

All in all, it was easy to feel connected with Elle, albeit slightly from a distance. She didn’t evolve quite as much as I would have wanted her to and the story was sometimes slow paced but I liked how different the plot was from what I was expecting based on its title. Because I can’t make up my mind if this book was okay or not, I decided to give it the doubtful three stars. It wasn’t as good as I thought it would be, but it wasn’t bad either.

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