In western culture, happiness is often considered to be an ultimate life goal, a final form we can achieve through our actions and choices.
Unfortunately, the pursuit of happiness is elusive at best, and misleading at worst. What does happiness actually mean and how do we even know when we have it?
And what happens when we realise the things we thought would make us happy aren't all that important after all?
If You're Happy is a collection of 24 short stories by Brisbane-based writer Fiona Robertson. Capturing people at their most vulnerable - during moments of grief, transition or crisis - the stories in this collection examine the depths of human emotion and our struggle to find happiness.
In this collection you'll meet a colourful bunch of characters, each with their own complex emotional landscape.
Many stories are set in Australia, but you'll also find a woman staring down a tornado in Texas, a grieving man trying to forget his loss amongst the glaciers of Iceland, and a neglected new bride on honeymoon in Thailand, amongst others.
The elegance of short stories lie in their precision. Beneath their brevity lie a multitude of complexities. Robertson writes with a confident simplicity. She lets her characters shine, laying bare their imperfections and insecurities without judgement.
Sometimes the characters find themselves in unusual situations, such as the divorcee who wakes up to find a sinkhole in her backyard, whilst other characters' lives are more mundane.
Each story is standalone, but connected by common threads of loneliness, longing, grief, and disappointment.
Robertson expertly wields metaphor, subtext, surprise and tension to convey the broad expanse of human emotion. A trained doctor, Robertson practised for years as a GP. Perhaps her experiences treating people at some of their most vulnerable moments have instilled her with the empathy and grace in which she treats her characters.
Many of the stories in this collection focus on a moment or single event, often ending just at the turning point.
Quietly philosophical, Robertson shows rather than tells, each story gets to the heart of something, even if that something is not quite articulated. It's more of an understanding, a knowing.
Although widely published in literary journals and anthologies, If You're Happy is Fiona Robertson's first collection of short stories. Robertson received the Glendower Award for an Emerging Queensland Writer in the 2020 Queensland Literary Awards for the collection, a recognition well deserved.
This is a compassionate and insightful collection of stories.
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