The Trouble With Happiness

Title: The Trouble With Happiness and Other Stories

Writer: Tove Ditlevsen (translated by Michael Favala Goldman)

Publishing House: Penguin Classics

Date of Publication: March 3rd 2022

Rating: 5 stars

“There is nothing so merciful as love.”

The Umbrella: An umbrella becomes the metaphor for a young woman’s unsatisfactory life in the hands of a cruel, unworthy husband. 

The Cat: A husband feels threatened by his wife’s adoration towards her cat. Why? This is for the reader to decide…

My Wife Doesn’t Dance: A woman finally understands the extent of her husband’s patronizing and manipulation. 

His Mother:A young couple is haunted by the man’s mother in a rather unsettling story.

The Queen of the Night:A young girl is observing her family’s dynamics, her mother’s artistic flair and her father’s violent nature.

One Morning in a Residential Neighborhood: A family is torn apart because of bad decisions and the victims are always the children.

A Nice Boy: A boy who has been adopted finds his life changed by the coming of a baby and has to face a prejudiced society that considers him the result of “sin”.

Evening:A lonely girl tries to stay sane in the mess her parents have made.

Depression: A moving story about mental health and marriage.

The Knife: An eerie story that is actually a sniper of the thoughts of a self-centred family man who feels suffocated by his wife and son, and wronged by society. A man who gives a knife to his son as a gift… 

The Method:A surreal story in which a woman dissects her husband because she can’t stand being married to an entire person…

Anxiety:A woman has been turned into a docile, witless creature, scared out of her wits by her tyrannical husband.

Mother: Now, it is the turn of a mother to become a tyrant oppressing her children.

A Fine Business:A young couple is searching for the perfect house and finds a woman willing to sell her fortune following her divorce. Manipulation and exploitation shouldn’t surprise us by now…

The Bird: A man is dying and all his family can think of is a parakeet… 

The Little Shoes:A woman tells it like it is to the young slut who threatens the balance of her household.

The Best Joke:If this story had any meaning at all, I failed to decipher it…

Two Women:A hairdresser and her client find out that they share similar ailments but there is no understanding or compassion between them. On a side note, what is it with women who spill the beans at their hairdresser’s? I am like “just cut it and shut up, I am NOT going to talk to you!” Jesus!

Perpetuation:A woman relives her childhood as she tries to grasp her husband’s infidelity. 

The Trouble With Happiness:The impending death of her aunt becomes the backdrop of a young woman’s confessions on her highly dysfunctional family, on relationships and honesty.

These stories will utterly turn you away from marrying and starting a family. I have never encountered such a bleak, almost hellish, depiction of family life and I can’t help but wonder as to the depth of Ditlevsen’s sorrow. 

“Fight for all you hold dear.”

Many thanks to Penguin Books and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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