Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Jun 08, Friederike Knabe rated it it was amazing Shelves: canadian-lit , memoirs. I have been a fan of Camilla Gibb's two novels set in far away places. Both, Sweetness in the Belly and The Beauty of Humanity Movement drew me into the stories and also into her gentle and often poetic writing. It was a given therefore that I would rush out to get my hands on her new memoir, this is happy.
I have to admit I did not get what I anticipated, but much much more. Not that I had a clear notion of what to expect not having read any of the publicity beforehand. Camilla Gibb's memoir go I have been a fan of Camilla Gibb's two novels set in far away places.
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Camilla Gibb's memoir got under my skin very quickly and very profoundly. It is not a book that I will forget soon. This is the heartrending account of a very courageous individual, baring open her deepest fears and anxieties, her traumas and desperate efforts to hold on to some kind of life and hope for a future.
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And out of the many fragments of the past, from childhood to first and great loves followed by deep losses and desolation, she succeeds in construction a new life with the building blocks of lessons learned from that past. She can see a future within a new close-knit community of family and friends and her young daughter at the centre of a new happiness.
Camilla Gibb's memoir is a compelling account, exquisitely realized in tone and language, often emotionally charged, yet also written where appropriate with the distance of an observer. Her reflections have meaning beyond her personal experience and reach into the emotional fabric of what makes us who we are and who we can become. Reading this is happy kept me up reading late into the night.
View 2 comments. Aug 05, Jessica Rose rated it it was amazing. I found an hour of solitude as the sun began to set and hipster parents called their little ones back toward shore. This is happy, I thought to myself. Together they build a far from happy tale. Divided in four parts — incubate, hatch, roost, and flight — This Is Happy begins where many memoirs do, at the beginning.
In these early days, we see a character struggling to belong, a theme that follows Gibb into an adulthood plagued by restlessness, illness, and profound heartbreak. Amidst the often excruciating unhappiness found between the covers of This Is Happy, there is a light — a light so pure and fragile that Gibb calls it her egg.
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All I know is that the egg wants to be held all the time, and perhaps if I hold her all the time she will know that she is loved in such a fundamental and profound way that when her heart is broken as an adult, she will not fall apart, will know she is still loved and lovable. It explores the commonalities all our life stories share: fantasies, failures, losses, and loves.
You spend a thousand hours in therapy talking about the thousand things that hurt, one by one, in excruciating detail. That mass of grief holds the loss of the person you loved, the idea of them, the person you were with them, the life you shared, the friends and community and extended family you shared, the idea of who you were together — it challenges the very idea of your life and yourself.
This quotation-heavy review should act as evidence that I loved this book. This is one of those books you want to tell the world about.
So often, memoirs are steeped in nostalgia, but This Is Happy looks instead toward a brighter future. View 1 comment. Jan 20, Krista rated it really liked it Shelves: can-con , nonfiction , memoir , We are the storytelling animal; our stories are what make us human.
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I didn't know what to expect from This is Happy — I picked it up because the book was recently shortlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize for literary nonfiction — and based on the title, I expected something, erm, happy. That it is not. In what is quite a short narrative, author Camilla Gibb describes a miserable and chaotic childhood, her mental illness and suicide attempts as a graduate student at Oxford, a string of tumultuous lo We are the storytelling animal; our stories are what make us human.
In what is quite a short narrative, author Camilla Gibb describes a miserable and chaotic childhood, her mental illness and suicide attempts as a graduate student at Oxford, a string of tumultuous love affairs, and just when she believes her life is settled and complete enjoying success as an author, and after four years of a happy marriage, eight weeks pregnant with a longed-for child , everything crumbles: her wife announces that she's leaving and Gibb must scramble to find a new place to live and a new support network, all the while crying incessantly and feeling inadequate to the task of motherhood.
Presumably, this book is what came of that advice.
Being able to put your experiences into a narrative gives meaning to the life you have lived. It can allow you to make sense of the things that have seemed the most senseless and cruel by providing some context - even if that context is nothing more than: it didn't kill me. I am alive to tell this tale. I am here, where I was once there. There is a story, possibly a universal one, of the passage between there and here. In the end, it's in these relationships that Gibb recognises happiness. I can appreciate the beauty of these moments when I describe them, but I have little feeling of beauty inside me.
I can create happy moments for us and I can know that they are happy. I am doing my best to give my daughter a good life, exposing and introducing her to diverse and interesting people and experiences. I am watching her, watching the world. I have spent so much of my life watching from a distance. Now it seems I am twice removed.
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And this removal is evident in Gibb's storytelling: the language in This is Happy is sparse and matter-of-fact — even when she's relating very painful memories; even when recalling suicide attempts — and while every now and then there is a lovely or insightful turn-of-phrase, I think that the spare language serves Gibb well; we are shown the facts, but without florid writing, we are not invited to share in the pain.
As an author memoir, I appreciated the parts about her time in Ethiopia and how that would have informed Gibb's writing of Sweetness in the Belly ; a book I loved , and after reading the scene where her then-homeless, alcoholic father showed up for a reading of Mouthing the Words , I am very interested in reading that.
I want to point out that I was fairly incensed to read that the ex-wife — someone with no biological ties to the baby, and since she left Gibb so early in her pregnancy, someone with no personal investment in the baby — enjoys parental rights and visits and was even able to barge into the delivery room soon after the baby was born.
I was also saddened to read that following the breakup of her marriage Gibb hasn't been able to write any more fiction. I used to be the biggest champion of fiction. I can tell you why the artifice is necessary. I have a job to do as a storyteller: we all do. To tell stories that make us knowable to others, most importantly our children.
To give them the tools to help them know themselves. And perhaps we come to know ourselves differently as a consequence. In the end, this is a short read something like four hours , and while Gibb's childhood was pretty terrible, she doesn't dwell on it like some others do in the recent spate of misery memoirs. Ultimately, I find Gibb to be a very likeable person and I hope she really has found her happiness; not because she deserves it more than anyone else, but because she deserves it just as much as we all do.
It's a worthwhile read. Sep 04, Alison rated it liked it. I really liked and could relate to some aspects of this story but in the end I felt that it just became another self-indulgent first world memoir, which was disappointing. Oct 29, Cathryn Wellner rated it it was amazing Shelves: memoir , inspiration.
I knew a little of what was ahead of me. Her birth family would be broken. She would sink into despair and consider suicide. The safe, secure family she formed with the woman she married would suddenly dissolve, leaving her pregnant and alone.
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