Campbell writes romantic ambivalence and sexual risk with a sharpness that begs belief. Reading this razorblade of a debut I often laughed out loud-more often still shivered with recognition. A hot, ripe portrait of the recent shifts in Ireland and what it means to be a woman inside it.
This is an exquisite thing. A book beautiful with real, lived-in feelings and blustery living weather. It's profoundly atmospheric, and a brilliant treatise on memory, the fleeting movement of time and the fluid dynamics of romantic relationships. It feels at once forensic and yet deeply passionate, detached and yet profoundly moving. It's wry as fuck. It provokes the awed re-reading of sentences and paragraphs, over and over.
Beautiful, strange and wholly new, Niamh Campbell's novel is the real deal.
Campbell evokes vivid nostalgia with her clear-eyed prose that is a compelling combination of candid and droll.
What sets it apart is also its greatest strength: a well-constructed non-linear form... The story of this relationship is interweaved with the present so closely that it feels almost overlaid, reading convincingly like a memory. There's also interesting commentary on class... THIS HAPPY's retrospective narration allows Alannah to accept responsibility gradually for her past actions, ultimately making her a fuller, more satisfying character than others of this ilk... a quietly exhilarating story.
Superb... This is a novel of psychological texture... Campbell can turn a sensory phrase... its opulent unhappiness is something to enjoy.
One of the year's most beautifully written books, THIS HAPPY traces the path to womanhood of Alannah from disastrous affair to no-less-comfortable marriage and beyond.
Astute... As she explores her ambivalence and unrest, each refracted through the prism of her experience and each considered in her sharp, antic and candid voice, we are offered a dazzling array of thoughts on the mute choreography of human relationships, the piercing solitude of romantic endeavour, the "melancholy and longing" that overtakes middle-aged men (a condition "they always believe to be original"), and the unbidden arrival of the truth of our once-mysterious behaviour... Campbell leads us to these insights with freshness and resonance... Such evocative prose prevents this relatively static and contemplative enterprise from feeling dormant or indulgent, and beautifully encapsulates the ways in which its narrator's preoccupations with the weight of history and the plangency of the future inhere in her perception of her undulating days. The ghosts of our past might refuse to go away. But, as this book so stirringly shows, you can write them into edifying life.
Campbell's debut is a novel of psychological texture, rather than plot, but its opulent unhappiness and mordant observations make it superb.
There are impressively toe-curling set pieces detailing awkward encounters between families... Campbell's language is striking.
Sharply written... The quality of the writing is top-notch. Page after page of astute, deft observations... Campbell holds her own against her contemporaries, writers like Claire-Louise Bennett, Sally Rooney, Nicole Flattery and Lucy Sweeney Byrne, who have set a high bar at home and abroad for fast-paced, truth-laced fiction... THIS HAPPY is a layered and vibrant debut. Campbell is great on setting... The novel is full of sensual, offbeat descriptions... Characterisation is another strength.
Engaging... Plot isn't the point here; rather, the novel gets its energy from the sour kick to its intelligently disaffected narration, as Campbell pins down fleeting impressions from a life textured by memory.
An intense, evocative read.
If you loved Sally Rooney's NORMAL PEOPLE, read this novel... It's become de rigeur to label any young Irish writer the 'next Sally Rooney' over the last few years, but Niamh Campbell has a stronger claim to the title than most... darkly romantic... The moral ambiguities (and irreconcilable power struggles) inherent in the relationship are familiar territory for fans of CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS, but in many ways, the prose is less reminiscent of Rooney's clipped, email-honed style than of Eimear McBride's lyrical Joycean sentences.
Superb... a powerful exploration of sex, relationships, and the past's influence on the present... yet another example of a young Irish female writer producing outstanding work... The brutally honest examination of Alannah's flawed motivations will no doubt lead to comparisons between Campbell and fellow young Irish writers Naoise Dolan and Sally Rooney. The book's erotically-charged moments have a similar feel to the hit TV adaptation of Rooney's NORMAL PEOPLE - which became a visceral example of how sex can display the internal workings of the mind.
She has already been compared with writers such as Eimear McBride, Ali Smith and Claire Louise Bennett, and indeed Niamh Campbell's debut novel does add a distinctive new voice to Irish literature... Campbell has produced a thought-provoking piece. With her interior monologue, written in the first person, this creates a claustrophobic ambience... At times witty, fiery, wistful and even shocking, with engrossing heady prose, Campbell's style is unique.
A triumph of style... This book is made of ancient stuff. It is of the land and the landscape - replete with unashamedly ornate, arguably extraneous detail... She writes against the style du jour - sparse prose; tight, fast plots - in favour of something more rich and rebellious... I heard tones of Joyce as I read - not only in the direct references ("the snot-green sea", Alannah's remark: 'he was my epiphany') - but also in the muscular, myth-laden prose... it is the best novel I have read all year. It snuck up on me like a ghost in the night. It spoke on a different frequency.