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The Promise of Happiness: 21 Great Bloomsbury Reads for the 21st Century (21st Birthday Celebratory Edn) Paperback – 2 Jan 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; 21st birthday celebratory ed edition (2 Jan. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747589984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747589983
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 13 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,803,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Cartwright beautifully and inexorably constructs a tragedy of noble reticence and oddness, in which even hope has a changeling aspect' Sunday Telegraph 'Brilliant, dazzling, unsettling; subtle and haunting; complex and multi-layered; deeply moving Cartwright manages to combine the thrilling readability of genre fiction with the unpredictability and strangeness of a literary master' Independent on Sunday 'Justin Cartwright looks to be one of the finest novelists currently at work' Guardian 'Cartwright has been gaining a formidable literary reputation, and each new book has only added to it. This one is a special treat: as entertaining as it is thought-provoking. It confirms his status as one of our foremost novelists' Daily Mail

About the Author

Justin Cartwright's novels include the Booker-shortlisted In Every Face I Meet, the Whitbread Novel Award-winner Leading the Cheers and the acclaimed White Lightning which was shortlisted for the 2002 Whitbread Novel Award. Justin Cartwright was born in South Africa, and now lives in Islington, London.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 May 2005
Format: Paperback
This book has had incredible reviews, and rightly so. It is a moving account of a family's attempts to come to terms with the fact that their eldest daughter, the golden girl of the family, has been imprisoned for an art theft. We get all five members of the family's point of view, and it ends with an astonishing scene when they are finally re-united. One critic, and I heartily agree, described this as the most moving book he has read in ten years. But a word of warning: it is not a feel-good,sentimental read, which is what some of the people who have written in expect. It is a genuine work of literature, but very accessible and very contemporary. Please, please read this if you are interested in the way we live now.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 Jun. 2005
Format: Paperback
It's very rare to read a novel so full of ideas and observations, and to find at the same time that it is very enjoyable and easy to read. I couldn't put it down. It's about a family in crisis, but still agonisingly funny. The favourite daughter has been involved in an art theft in New York, and the novel opens on the day she is let out of prison. Her parents, Daphne and Charles, her sister Sophie and her brother Charlie are all wonderfully well described. Charles is having something of a crisis, unable to come to terms with his daughter's imprisonment. The book is crammed full of moving and - as I said - funny moments, and lays bare the soul of this family. There are also interesting observations on art, on families, on life as we live it now. Don't miss this book. They hype is definitely justified.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Wynne Kelly TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
Justin Cartwright always writes well about family life. In The Promise of Happiness he shows it with its ups and downs, joys and disappointments. Sometimes the feeling is that there are more disappointments than anything else.....

After many years of marriage Charles and Daphne Judd find they have less and less in common. Their daughter Juliet has just been released from prison in Ohio and will soon be home, still hurt by the fact that her father never once visited her in prison. Their younger daughter Sophie is at the end of a drug-fuelled few years and in a relationship with a man twenty years her senior. Son Charlie's internet business is thriving and he is living with "smouldering beauty" Ana. A wedding is being arranged - the only problem being that Charlie is no longer sure that he actually loves Ana. So potentially this is a family on the brink of disintegration. But, as Cartwright points out, families are like sea anemones, quick to close.

The narrative is particularly interesting the way in which we are given wrong, or incomplete information and the wider picture is only revealed much later on. Juliet seems to have coped well with prison life but later the real horror of her time inside spills out. Sophie's drug-taking is made to sound almost cool - then the reality of it all is revealed.

I liked the way Cartwright doesn't tie up all the loose ends and spell everything out to the reader. Some gaps are left that we can fill in for ourselves.

Perceptive and funny - and with a redemptive ending (well, sort of!)
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78 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Cunliffe TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 7 Mar. 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a very rewarding book, a story of a family going through a challenging time, with the eldest daughter being released from prison, bringing all sorts of undercurrents to the surface of this typically middle class family. JoJo was convicted of fraudulently handling some antique windows, while working in New York. Her family in England coped with this in various ways, but the greatest impact was on her parents. Her father went into denial and during her two year incarceration was unable to bring himself to visit her in jail, leaving her mother to go by herself. When the time comes for her release, JoJo's brother goes across to meet her at the prison and to take her through a few days of acclimatisation during which he keeps in touch with the other family members by telephone as they anticipate the reunion a the family home in Cornwall.
The book is tense at times, largely centring on the relationship between the mother and father who find various way of not coping very well. There is also an element of the detective novel about this book as clearly, JoJo's conviction was not the best example of US justice and requires investigation by her brother, who delves into the truth behind it. I would rate this as an extremely well-written book which deserves the reputation is has gained since its release.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Book Worm on 22 Jun. 2005
Format: Paperback
I was so, so disappointed by this book, the reviews and online recommendations, had built my hopes up quite high.
But the book, was dull, laborious and tedious to read.
I've read better about family reactions, from different view points etc. Some of the characters were particularly unlikable, and it was very much written from a male view point. As a female, some of it was disheartening.
overall it lacked pace, and was overly concerned with how people find their true happiness, in an obvious pop psychology way, which grated more than anything.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Roger Risborough on 16 Sept. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Justin Cartwright presents us with an English rural idyll - coastal Cornwall replete with parish churches, flower arranging, John Betjeman and Rick Stein - then shakes everything up via the fragmenting Judd family. For the senior Judds (father Charles and mother Daphne) retiring to Trebetherick (long-time family holiday haunt) was a promise of happiness, but we know that nothing (in novels) is that simple, and soon their lives are shattered by an imprisoned daughter, ongoing mental and physical health issues, nose-piercing, and the charred remains of an over-cooked marriage.
Daughter Juliet's impending release from prison in the States and anticipated return to Cornwall sets the agenda for what unfolds, as the chapter settings switch from New York State to London (home of other daughter Sophie, with the ear-piercing) to Cornwall, with son Charlie junior doing shuttle diplomacy between all other family members. Suddenly, Charlie is about to have a baby and get married to his beautiful South American partner (whom he may not love), and of course the wedding has to be in Trebetherick, so all roads lead to Cornwall for the family finale. The plot then, and the character-list, bear a distinct resemblance to Jonathan Franzen's "The Corrections" (but obviously done with an English accent) and attempting a similar summing-up-the-state-of-the-nation with each character type: father (embittered old school accountant), son (internet entrepreneur), mother (down-trodden trooper), elder daughter (intellectual free-spirit) and younger daughter (Shoreditch drifter). Whatever the influences, this is a compelling tale with convincing characters, particularly Charles senior, and a recognisable setting, and the warnings are clear - don't get married, don't have children, don't retire to the seaside, and don't expect happiness.
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