The Happiness Project
by Pippa James
Pub date: February 12th 2019
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Three mumsy friends each make a New Year’s Resolution; hyper-organised Alison wants to escape her comfort zone, single mother Frankie want to get a job and hold it down and Kate, pregnant for the third time, wants to approach the new baby’s birth with ‘zen’ instead of being her usual worrying self. Naturally it all goes entirely to plan – not. Navigating new romances and old friendships, hirings and firings, PTA mums and wayward family members all while raising a collective brood of crazy four years olds doesn’t make their Happiness Project as straight forward as they’d hoped.
When it came to parenting, there really wasn’t any easier option.
First of all, I want to acknowledge one very big factor that affected my view of this book – it is absolutely not aimed at me. I am 22, unmarried and childless, and despite my lovely boyfriend have no intentions of changing that any time soon (well, other than my age. Don’t really have any control over that!). There were several moments that I thought were mildly funny which must be uproarious to mums and dads who can relate to the silly things toddlers say. I couldn’t really relate to any of the characters because although I consider myself a busy bee, I’m never juggling all my work and social commitments with raising a child.
With that disclaimer out of the way, I did find this a light and entertaining read! It reminded me a lot of the film Bad Moms, but British and quaint, with awkward kids, overwhelming jobs and bitchy PTA members undermining plans.
She tried to be a good person. She worked hard. She prioritised the important things in life. She put other people first. She tried so hard. So how did the likes of Becky and Jo always come out on top? With their well-behaved kids and perfectly styled lives… Where was the justice in that?
The characters are definitely at the core of this novel. The three leads are all pretty likeable and their personalities don’t make them the most typical of friends, which just shows that having kids can introduce you to all sorts of people you might not know otherwise. Frankie is probably my favourite, a brassy but compassionate young mum who doesn’t quite have it all together yet but is working on it. She gets some of the best lines in the book, with a snappy sense of humour and a more complex storyline that deals with harassment in the workplace. She can be judgemental, but has a learning curve of maturity, including learning to support all women, not just the ones she happens to like.
“The Sarcastic Mum’s Attempt at Organising.” She read out. “They made a calender just for me?”
Kate and Alison are also great characters with more depth than you would normally find in chick-lit. Kate’s plot mostly follows her experience helping a friend who is in the late stages of her first pregnancy and has a lot of different ideas on how to go about it than Kate, a veteran mother. The combination of her attempt to be relaxed while pregnant and irritation that she is being preached to by a inexperienced mum is interesting to read.
Alison is the typical Type A personality, who attempts a New Year’s Resolution of eating healthy by creating a folder of flashcards ordered by meal and day. Her aim to try break out of her comfort zone in the style of her late mother-in-law Maggie, but her desire for order make it difficult for her to stretch too far.
With the right stationary, there was no task that couldn’t be accomplished.
I did, however, have a niggle with Kate and Alison’s husbands; neither of them by any stretch of imagination were bad men, but they both displayed real thoughtlessness towards their wives. Alison’s husband, Simon, especially could have been more supportive to his wife as she obviously struggled to push herself to do something new; being married to her, surely he’d realise how hard she was trying and that it wasn’t natural to her?
“Okay,” he called after her as she left. “Have fun at your totally new and life-changing hobby.”
I found out after reading this book that it is actually a sequel, but it works very easily as a standalone novel. Events that must have happened in the previous book are referred to, but explained to new readers don’t feel out of the loop, but not enough to bore those who are already familiar with the events.
Overall, this is a fun, sweet read. The friendship between the three women is lovely and realistic, with bickering and silly fall outs but a genuine streak of friendship running throughout. I’d definitely recommend to anyone
“I think we should toast all our achievements. Here’s to doing difficult things, whether we knew we’d have to or not.” They lifted their cups of hot chocolate towards one another.
“And for having friends to help us do it.” Alison said.
“And for generally just being badass mothers.” Frankie added.
I received The Happiness Project from NetGalley in exchange for a review – thanks to Bookouture for allowing me a copy!
*if you’ve enjoyed my review and feel like you want to purchase this novel, please consider doing so through my affiliate link! I will receive a small commission, at no expense to you 🙂