'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Sunday 9 February 2020

Review: H is for Happiness

Barry Jonsberg’s H is for Happiness is a reissue of My Life as an Alphabet, published early 2013. This stunning piece of work deserves all the kudos it receives. It won the 2013 Gold Inky, the Children’s Peace Literature Award, the 2014 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, and was short-listed for the CBCA Awards in 2014, and a string of other awards. Now the movie is being released early 2020.

The prose sizzles through the voice of protagonist, Candice Phee – a girl different to other children. She marches to her own tune; is clever and loving. Friendless apart from Douglas Benson From Another Dimension, Candice is unfazed by the ridicule she receives at school. She sees the good in everyone and never speaks negatively to, or about, anyone. She adores her Rich Uncle Brian who is estranged from his brother, Candice’s dad.

Douglas is also a rare individual. They fit together perfectly, as they accept each other’s idiosyncrasies as normal. Douglas is trying to find a way to return to what he believes, is his real family in an alternate universe.

A class assignment is set. Each pupil must write about themselves. Each paragraph must begin with a letter of the alphabet, from A to Z. But one paragraph per letter is barely enough for the expansive and eloquent Candice.

This opens the closed doors of Candice’s life and thoughts. It is through these alphabetically listed paragraphs, that Jonsberg reveals a detailed and intimate view of just how extraordinary is his main character. For this book is all about Candice.    

The serious problem of loneliness grows worse in the Phee family. Since the death of her baby Frances, Mum lies on her bed all the time and never smiles. Her father’s escape is the garage and his computer. Since his falling out with his brother and the ending of their business partnership, he is withdrawn and broody. Home is a dark place.

Candice misses her family. She is determined to bring happiness back into their lives as she can no longer endure the depressive sadness that has destroyed her parents.

This is an outstanding novel; perfectly executed and delivered. His previous book, A Song Only I can Hear, published in 2018 has now been optioned for a film with the screenplay underway.

Title: H for Happiness
Author: Barry Jonsberg
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $16.99
Publication Date: January 2020
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781760527402
For ages: 10 - 13
Type: Teenage Fiction