Like her impressive debut, Exciting Times, Naoise Dolan’s second novel, The Happy Couple, is a snapshot of the complex and slightly ridiculous nature of millennial relationships: melting pots of sexuality, fluctuating monogamy, situationships and hurt. In ‘The Happy Couple’, Dolan navigates all of this through the eyes of the eponymous couple, newly engaged Celine and Luke, and their circle of friends, family and exes. What unravels is a maddening ‘will they, won’t they’ as the wedding date creeps closer.
Dolan’s characters are not easy to love, but they are harder to dislike. With every alienating bad decision or strange quirk (Celine’s perpetual glove wearing or Aunt Maggy’s glass animal collection), they divulge a piercingly honest piece of reflection where we come face to face with fragments of our own introspection or anxieties. Dolan’s Irishisms are also disarming rather than cringeworthy; after listening to Luke’s best man Archie drunkenly ramble on, Celine’s sister Phoebe simply says ‘mind yourself’.
Throughout the novel, Dolan offers no damning judgement or moral equivocations. Things for her just ‘are’, and there’s a weird kind of comfort in this for the reader. On the day of her Wedding, Celine wonders, ’couldn’t you leave things. Let them settle into you, without knowing what to call them?’. Perhaps this is what makes Dolan’s narrative style so appealing — it has the tendency to settle into you.
Words: Holly Gash
[W & N]