Something Like Happy

John Burnside

Jonathan Cape



John Burnside’s second collection of short stories, Something Like Happy, deals with the central theme of the despairing and the disappointed, lives in which people are trapped by circumstances or human failings or even by the haphazard events of living. What marks these stories out though is the redemptive quality that can be found in each of them as people find hope in sometimes the smallest and most inconsequential signs of the familiar. In ‘The Cold Outside’, a lorry driver, Bill Harley, finds that his cancer has returned and goes driving aimlessly in the dark night in a snowstorm and to a chance meeting with a young man dressed as a woman who, it emerges, has had a beating.  As Bill finally makes his way home, he momentarily has the impulse to drive off again into the endless solitude of the blizzard but instead he returns indoors ‘to the living room, where the curtains were already drawn and the night was nothing more than a story to be told by a warm fire, with the radio humming quietly in the background, so the world felt familiar and more or less happy’.  These are beautifully crafted, lyrical and moving stories.