Happy People Read and Drink Coffee


By Agnès Martin-Lugand

Formats and Prices





  1. Trade Paperback $14.99
  2. ebook $9.99
  3. Hardcover $36.00

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 4, 2017. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

The international phenomenon described as Under the Tuscan Sun set in Ireland, about a recent widow who moves to the Irish coast and begins a tumultuous but ultimately healing relationship with her neighbor, a brooding Irish photographer. Also out now: the bestselling sequel, Don’t Worry, Life is Easy, also from Hachette Books.

Diane seems to have the perfect life. She is a wife, mother, and the owner of Happy People Read and Drink Coffee, a cozy literary cafén Paris. But when she suddenly loses her husband and daughter in a car accident, the world as she knows it disappears.

One year later, Diane moves to a small town on the Irish coast, determined to heal by rebuilding her life alone-until she meets Edward, a handsome and moody photographer, and falls into a surprising and tumultuous romance.

But will it last when Diane leaves Ireland for good? At once heartbreaking and uplifting, Diane’s story is deeply felt, reminding us that love remembered is love enduring.

“A heartbreaking story of love and loss that will twist readers up in knots…essential.” — Library Journal



“Mom, please?”

“I said no, Clara.”

“Oh, come on, Diane. Let her go with me.”

“Don’t think you can fool me, Colin. If Clara goes with you, the two of you will take absolutely no notice of the time and we’ll end up leaving for vacation three days late.”

“Come with us then. That way, you can keep an eye on us!”

“Absolutely not. Have you seen how much I still have to do?”

“Even more reason for Clara to come with me, you’ll have lots of peace and quiet.”


“Fine. Off you go! Scoot! Disappear, the both of you.”

They left, laughing and fooling around as they went downstairs.

I found out they were still fooling around in the car when the truck crashed into them. I told myself they were still laughing when they died. I told myself that I should have been with them.

And for the past year, I’ve told myself I should have died with them. I tell myself that every day. But my heart stubbornly keeps on beating. And I’m still alive. Utterly miserable and still alive.

Sprawled out on the sofa, I was watching my cigarette smoke rise into the air when the front door opened. Felix no longer waited for me to invite him to come over. He simply appeared with no warning, or almost. Ever since we met at college, I’d learned how to deal with his faults. My oldest friend, and my business partner, he came over every day. Why on earth did I give him that spare set of keys?

I started when he came in, and ashes fell on my pajamas. I blew them off onto the floor. I went into the kitchen to get my next fix of caffeine so I wouldn’t see him start to clean up, which he did every day.

When I got back, nothing had been moved. The ashtrays were still overflowing; empty cups, takeout containers, and bottles were strewn all over the coffee table. Felix had sat down, cross-legged, and was staring at me. Seeing him looking so serious upset me for a split second, but what surprised me more was what he was wearing. Why was he in a suit? What had happened to his torn jeans and tight-fitting T-shirt, the only clothes he ever wore?

“Where are you going dressed like that? A wedding or a funeral?”

“What time is it?” He was eyeing me carefully.

“You haven’t answered my question. I don’t give a damn what time it is. Did you dress up like that to pick up some stock market type?”

“I wish. It’s two o’clock and you have to go get washed and dressed. You can’t go looking like that.”

“Where do you think I’m going?”

“Hurry up. Your parents and Colin’s will be waiting for us. We have to be there in an hour.”

My entire body started to shake, my hands began to tremble; I felt sick.

“Out of the question. I won’t go to the cemetery. You hear me?”

“Do it for them,” he said softly. “Come and pay your respects; today’s the day, you have to go, it’s been a year, everyone will be there to support you.”

“I don’t want anyone’s support. I refuse to go to this stupid memorial service. Do you really think I want to celebrate their deaths?”

My voice was trembling and the first tears of the day began to fall. Through the mist, I could see Felix standing up and walking towards me. He wrapped his arms around me and crushed me to his chest.

“Diane, please, come for them.”

I angrily pushed him away.

“I said no; are you that stupid?” I shouted when I saw him about to take a step closer. “Get out of my house!”

I ran into my bedroom. In spite of my trembling hands, I managed to lock myself inside. I collapsed against the door, hugging my legs to my chest. The silence that filled the apartment was broken by Felix’s sigh.

“I’ll come back tonight.”

“I never want to see you again.”

“At least make the effort to get washed, otherwise I’ll throw you into the shower myself.”

His footsteps faded away, and when I heard the door slam, I knew he’d finally gone.

For a long time, I sat there, drained, my head resting on my knees, before glancing over to my bed. With great difficulty, I crawled towards it on all fours. I hoisted myself up and wrapped my duvet around me. As soon as I was in my safe place, I started searching for a hint of Colin’s odor. The smell of him had disappeared long ago, even though I had never changed the sheets. I wanted to smell him again. I wanted to forget the stench of the hospital, the stench of death that had soaked into his skin the last time I rested my head against his neck.

I wanted to sleep, sleep would help me forget.

One year before, when I arrived at the Emergency Room with Felix, they told me it was too late, they told me that my daughter had died in the ambulance. The doctors gave me just enough time to throw up before telling me it was only a matter of minutes, possibly hours, for Colin. If I wanted to say goodbye, I had no time to lose. I wanted to scream, to shout that they were lying, but I couldn’t. I had fallen headlong into a nightmare; I wanted to believe I would soon wake up. A nurse led us to Colin’s bedside.

From the moment I entered that room, every word, every gesture became engraved in my memory. Colin was stretched out in the bed, hooked up to innumerable machines, noisy, flashing machines. He could barely move; his face was covered in bruises. I stood there for several minutes, totally incapable of moving because of what I was seeing. Felix had come with me, and his presence prevented me from breaking down completely. Colin turned his head slightly to look at me, his eyes fixed on mine. He found the strength to try to smile. That smile made it possible for me to go over to him. I took his hand; he squeezed mine.

“You should be with Clara,” he said, even though it was hard for him to talk.

“Colin, Clara is—”

“She’s in the operating room,” Felix, said, quickly cutting me off.

I looked up at him. He was smiling at Colin and wouldn’t look at me. My ears were ringing; my whole body was shaking; I could barely see. I felt Colin squeeze my hand tighter. I watched him as he listened to Felix give him news of Clara, explaining she was going to pull through. That lie cruelly brought me back to reality. In a broken voice, Colin told me he hadn’t seen the truck; he’d been singing with Clara. I had lost the ability to speak. I leaned towards him, stroking his hair and forehead. He turned his face to look at me again. My tears made his features look blurred; he had already begun to disappear; I couldn’t breathe. He raised his hand to hold it against my cheek.

“Hush now, my love,” he said. “Calm down; you heard Felix. Clara’s going to need you.”

There was no way I could escape the look in his eyes, so full of hope for our daughter.

“But what about you?” I managed to say.

“She’s the one who counts,” he said, wiping a tear from my cheek.

I was sobbing even harder, resting my face against the palm of his hand. It was still warm. He was still here. Still. I clung to that idea: still here.

“Colin,” I whispered, “I can’t lose you.”

“You’re not alone, you have Clara, and Felix will take good care of the two of you.”

I shook my head, not daring to look at him.

“Everything’s going to be all right, my love, you have to be brave, for our daughter . . .”

His voice suddenly went very quiet; I panicked and looked up at him. He seemed so tired. He had used his last bit of strength for me, as always. I pressed myself against him to kiss him; he responded with the last bit of life within him. I stretched out alongside him and helped him lay his head on my shoulder. As long as he was in my arms, he couldn’t leave me. Colin whispered that he loved me, one last time; I barely had time to say I loved him, too, when he peacefully passed away. For several hours, I held him, I rocked him in my arms, kissed him, breathed him in. When my parents tried to get me to leave, I screamed. Colin’s parents had come to see their son, but I wouldn’t let them touch him. He was mine and mine alone. It was Felix’s patience that finally forced me to give in. He had taken his time to calm me down before reminding me that I also had to say goodbye to Clara. My daughter had always been the only person in the world who could tear me away from Colin. Death had changed nothing. I released my grip on his body. I kissed him on the lips one last time and left.

I was lost in a fog as I walked towards Clara. I only reacted when I was in front of the door to the private room where they’d put her.

“No,” I said to Felix, “I can’t.”

“Diane, you should go and see her.”

Staring at the door, I took a few steps back before turning and rushing down the corridors of the hospital. I refused to see my daughter dead. I only wanted to remember her smile, her messy blond curls flying around her face, her mischievous, sparkling eyes on the very morning she had left with her father.

Today, as every day for the past year, utter silence reigned in our apartment. No music, no laughter, no endless conversations.

My legs automatically took me to Clara’s bedroom. Everything in it was pink. From the moment I’d known we were having a girl, I’d insisted that the entire room be decorated in that color. Colin had used a phenomenal number of sly tricks to get me to change my mind. But I never gave in.

I had touched nothing; not her duvet, still rolled up in a ball, not her toys scattered all over the room, not her nightgown left on the floor, not her little suitcase with wheels where she’d put her dolls to go away on vacation. Only two things were no longer in her room: the fluffy security blanket she’d taken with her and the one I slept with.

After silently closing the door, I made my way to Colin’s dressing room where I picked up a new shirt.

I had just locked myself in the bathroom to take a shower when I heard Felix come in. In the bathroom, a large sheet covered the mirror and all the shelves were empty except for Colin’s cologne. No beauty products, no makeup, no creams, no jewelry.

The cold bathroom tiles had no effect on me; I couldn’t care less. Water flowed over my body without making me feel any better at all. I filled my hand with Clara’s strawberry shampoo. Its sweet smell brought tears to my eyes along with a morbid sense of comfort.

My ritual could begin. I sprayed myself with Colin’s cologne, the first layer of protection. I closed the buttons of his shirt, second layer. I pulled on his hooded sweatshirt, third layer. I tied up my damp hair to keep the smell of strawberries longer, fourth layer.

In the living room, my garbage had all disappeared, the windows were open and it sounded like there was a battle going on in the kitchen. Before joining Felix, I closed the shutters in the living room. The semi-darkness was my best friend.

Felix had his head in the freezer. I leaned against the doorframe and watched him. He’d put his normal uniform back on and was shaking his bottom and whistling.

“May I ask what’s put you in such a good mood?”

“The night I had yesterday. Let me make dinner and I’ll tell you everything.”

He had turned towards me and was staring. He came over to me and took several deep breaths.

“Stop sniffing me like a dog,” I said.

“You’ve got to stop that.”

“What are you complaining about? I got washed.”

“It’s about time.”

He gave me a peck on the cheek before getting back to work.

“Since when do you know how to cook?”

“I don’t cook; I use a microwave. And I still need to find something good enough to eat. Your fridge is worse than the Gobi Desert.”

“If you’re hungry, order a pizza. You can’t cook anything. You’d even mess up a frozen dinner.”

“And that’s why you and Colin kept me fed, these past ten years. You’ve just had a brilliant idea; I’ll have more time to spend with you.”

I went and collapsed on the sofa. I was going to have the privilege of hearing all about his fantastic night. A glass of red wine quickly appeared in front of me. Felix sat down opposite me and threw over his pack of cigarettes. I lit one right away.

“Your parents send their love.”

“Good for them,” I replied, blowing smoke towards him.

“They’re worried about you,” he said, sighing.

“They shouldn’t be.”

“They’d like to come and see you.”

“Well, I don’t want to see them. You’re the only one I can tolerate seeing, lucky you.”

“I’m irreplaceable; you just can’t do without me.”


“Fine, if you insist, I’ll give you all the juicy details about what I did last night.”

“Oh, no! Anything but your sex life!”

“Make up your mind. It’s either my sexual exploits or your parents.”

“OK. Go ahead, I’m listening.”

Felix spared me none of the gory details. To him, life was just one gigantic party, spiced up by unbridled sexuality and by being the first to try illegal substances. Once he was in full flight, he didn’t even wait for me to reply, he just kept talking, nonstop. He didn’t even pause for breath when the doorbell rang.

The delivery guy also heard how Felix got himself invited to share the bed of a twenty-year-old student. Another one Felix decided to teach a thing or two.

“If you could have seen the expression on his face this morning, poor little sweetie; I was sure he was about to beg me to come back and take care of him. I was so moved,” he added, pretending to wipe away a tear.

“You are really disgusting!”

“I did warn him, but what can I do? Once you’ve had a taste of Felix, you get addicted.”

While I had only toyed with two or three bites, he was clearly full enough to burst. He still didn’t look like he was going to leave. He had become strangely silent; he took the leftovers and disappeared into the kitchen.

“Diane. You haven’t even asked me how it went today.”

“I’m not interested.”

“You’re going too far. How can you be so indifferent?”

“Shut up, I’m anything but indifferent. How dare you say something like that to me!” I shouted, quickly jumping to my feet.

“Shit, look at you; you look like a total wreck. You don’t do anything any more. You don’t work. Your whole life consists of smoking, drinking, and sleeping. Your apartment has turned into a sanctuary. I can’t stand watching you sink deeper and deeper into a hole every day.”

“No one can understand.”

“Of course they can, everyone understands what you’re going through. But that’s no reason to die little by little. It’s been a year since they’re gone, it’s time to start living again. Fight. Do it for Colin and Clara.”

“I don’t know how to fight, and anyway, I don’t want to.”

“Let me help you.”

I couldn’t stand it any more, so I put my hands over my ears and closed my eyes. Felix took me in his arms and forced me to sit down. He still wanted to give me one of his suffocating hugs. I never understood why he needed to crush me against him.

“Why don’t you go out with me tonight?” he asked.

“You haven’t understood a thing I’ve said,” I replied, snuggling against him in spite of myself.

“Go outside, be with people. You can’t remain a recluse any more. Come to Happy People with me tomorrow. The bookstore needs you, and you need to get out.”

“I couldn’t care less about Happy People!”

“Well, if that’s true, then let’s go away on vacation together. I can close the bookstore. They can do without us in the neighborhood . . . well, they can certainly do without me for a few weeks.”

“I don’t feel like going on vacation.”

“I’m sure you do. We’ll have a really fun time, just the two of us, and I’ll be able to take care of you every minute of the day. It’s what you need to get you back on track.”

He couldn’t see my eyes popping out of my head at the idea of having him permanently on my back.

“Listen, let me think about it,” I said, to appease him.


“Yes. I want to go to sleep now, so get going.”

He gave me a noisy kiss on the cheek before taking his cell phone out of his pocket. He flipped through his impressively large address book before calling one of his Stevens, Freds, or yet another Alex. Fired up by the idea of the evening of debauchery that awaited him, he finally let go of me. I stood up and lit a cigarette before heading for the front door. He stopped talking to the person on the other end of the phone long enough to kiss me one last time.

“I’ll come tomorrow,” he whispered in my ear, “but don’t count on seeing me too early; I’m going to have a very busy night tonight.”

My only reply was to raise my eyes to heaven. Happy People wouldn’t open on time again tomorrow morning. There really wasn’t much I could do about it. It was in another life that I had run a literary café. Felix had worn me out. Lord knows I love him, but I’d had enough.

Once in bed, I went over his words in my head. He seemed determined to get me to do something. I had to find a way out of it at all costs. Whenever he had an idea like that, nothing could stop him. He wanted me to get better, but I didn’t. What excuse could I make up?


A week had passed since Felix had launched his plan to “Pull Diane out of her depression.” He’d kept bombarding me with suggestions, each one more far-fetched than the last. I reached a breaking point when he left some vacation brochures on the coffee table. I knew full well what he had in mind: fun in the sun with everything that entailed. A kind of Club Med, lounge chairs, palm trees, watered-down rum cocktails, glistening, tanned bodies, water aerobic classes where you could ogle the activities organizer—a dream for Felix and a nightmare for me. All those holidaymakers crushed against each other on a tiny beach, or fighting to get to the buffet in their fancy evening clothes, appalled at the idea that their snoring neighbor might steal the last sausage, all those people happy to have been locked up in a tiny plane with screaming children around them: everything about it made me want to puke.

That’s why I was walking around in circles, smoking so much that my throat was on fire. Sleep was no longer a refuge for me; it had been invaded by visions of Felix in a bathing suit forcing me to go salsa dancing in a nightclub. He wouldn’t let the idea go as long as I refused to give in. I had to find a way to get out of it, nip it in the bud, reassure him while getting him off my back. Staying at home was out. Going away, leaving Paris for good was the only solution in the end. Finding some isolated spot where he wouldn’t follow me.

A trip into the world of the living was becoming inevitable: my kitchen cabinets and fridge were hopelessly empty. All I could find were out-of-date packages of cookies—Clara’s snacks—and some of Colin’s beer. I took one of the bottles and turned it round and round before deciding to open it. I breathed it in as if it had the bouquet of an extremely expensive wine. I took a sip and memories flooded through me.

Our first kiss had the taste of beer. How many times had we laughed about that? Romanticism wasn’t our strong suit when we were twenty. Colin only drank brown ale; he didn’t like lager. He always said he wondered why he had chosen a blond like me, which invariably resulted in him getting a slap on the back of the head.

Beer had also once interfered with our choice of where to go on vacation. Colin had wanted to go to Ireland for a few days. Then he’d pretended that the rain, wind, and cold made him change his mind. In truth, he knew I only liked going to sunny places where I could get a tan, so he didn’t want to force me to wear a windbreaker and fleece jacket on our summer vacation, or make me go somewhere I wouldn’t have enjoyed.

I dropped the bottle and it shattered on the tiled floor.

Sitting at Colin’s desk with an atlas in front of me, I looked over the map of Ireland. How could I choose my tomb under an open sky? How could I find a place that would bring me the peace and tranquility I needed to be alone with Colin and Clara? Knowing absolutely nothing about Ireland, and finding myself unable to choose somewhere to settle, I ended up closing my eyes and letting my fingers land on the map, trusting to fate.

I half-opened one eye and looked closer. I opened the other eye after taking my finger away, to see the name of the place. Fate had chosen the tiniest village possible; I could barely make out its name on the map. “Mulranny.” I would go into exile in Mulranny.

The moment had come: I had to tell Felix that I was going away, to live in Ireland. Three days—it took three whole days to build up the courage to do it. We’d just finished dinner; I’d forced myself to eat every mouthful to please him. Slumped down in an armchair, he was leafing through one of his brochures.

“Felix, put down the magazines.”

“You’ve made up your mind?”

He jumped up and rubbed his hands together.

“Where are we going?”

“I have no idea where you’re going but I’m going to live in Ireland.”

I was trying to sound as normal as possible. Felix was gasping for air like a fish out of water.

“Calm down.”

“Are you kidding? You can’t be serious! Who could have put such an idea in your head?”

“Colin. Go figure.”

“That’s it. She’s finally gone mad. Are you telling me that he came back from the dead to tell you where you should go?”

“You don’t have to be mean. He would have liked to go there, that’s all. I’ll go in his place.”


  • “A heartbreaking story of love and loss that will twist readers up in knots. . . Essential for any foreign literature or women's fiction collection.”
    Library Journal

  • “Like Katherine Pancol, Agnès Martin-Lugand has…the gift of making us love a charming yet flawed heroine.”
    Elle France

  • “Martin-Lugand's sparse but emotionally forceful style, aided by Smith's translation from the original French, catches the sweeter moments between two people embittered by loss.” —Kirkus Reviews
  • “Profoundly moving and expertly told, Happy People confronts life's most nightmarish tragedy with an unblinking examination. Diane's journey to find meaning again is at once charming and heartbreaking, and I found myself pulling for her to seek out her next experience of love. The wisdom and magic in these pages will linger long after the book is closed.”
    —#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs

  • “This is a powerful story of love and loss and how life moves forward often of its own accord. Both tearful and uplifting this is an exquisite story of re-growth and renewal after tragedy.”

  • “This is a sensitive and poignant novel…A book that is read (almost) in one go, it leaves an impression on the heart. A great life lesson.”
    Femmes Magazine, Luxembourg

  • “The energy that Agnès Martin-Lugand is able to convey with this storm is enormous. This is one roller-coaster of a book, but I loved every moment of it. . . Anyone who has ever experienced a feeling of any kind, ever, will enjoy this novel.”
    San Francisco Book Review

On Sale
Apr 4, 2017
Page Count
256 pages
Hachette Books

Agnès Martin-Lugand

About the Author

After several years as a clinical psychologist, Agnès Martin-Lugand now devotes herself to literature full time. She is also the author of Happy People Read and Drink Coffee (Les Gens Heureux Lisent et Boivent du Café) Michel Lafon 2013, and Happiness Slips Through My Fingers (Entre mes Mains le Bonheur se Faufile), Michel Lafon 2014. She lives in Paris.

Sandra Smith is a critically acclaimed translator of French literature. She has previously worked on Suite française and subsequent novels by Irène Némirovsky, as well as a new translation of The Outsider by Albert Camus. She is a Fellow of Robinson College, Cambridge where she continues to teach French Literature, Translation and Language.

Learn more about this author