Book review: If you’re happy, Fiona Robertson

A collection of stories that will bring you small bursts of joy.

In a world filled with concern about war, COVID and meeting the rising cost of living, it can be hard to find the happy moments in life and not be bogged down by the drudgery.

But in her book, If You’re Happy, author Fiona Robertson puts a spotlight on what brings us joy. She explores the small moments and how they can often be the most important and bring the most happiness.

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Stories in this collection range from a woman feeling unsupported and voiceless – the way older women can be often overlooked and unheard in society – as she tries to grapple with a growing problem in her backyard, a man struggling with a tough and fractious family dynamic and a teacher trying her best to make a real difference to the lives of her students.

The stories do not shy away from confronting content and they grab your attention straight away, including the opening line of the first offering, suitably named ‘Tempest’: ‘They are having sex when the wind starts up, whispering and sighing outside’. In this story, a housewife is wondering if the grass really is greener on the other side and the tale looks at the benefits of a comfortable, reliable relationship, compared to the thrill of new love.

One of the contributions that really stayed with me was about polygamy. It’s titled ‘Sweet Bountiful’ and explores the changing dynamic as the second spouse gets ready to welcome another sister-wife into the family. That story in particular sparked a lot of questions about religion, faith and choice in relationships.

‘The Fluttering’ is another standout contribution in this collection, about a man frantically trying to save the life of his son after his wife passes away. The narrative explores superstition and the drastic steps people will go to for the sake of loved ones.

If You’re Happy’s collection of 24 short stories has family and friendship at its heart and explores how the need for human interaction is the key to making the most of our lives.

Robertson was the 2020 winner of the Queensland Literary Awards’ Glendower prize for an emerging Queensland writer and from this book it’s clear to see why she took out such an honour. Her writing is warm and easy to sink into.

The author also comes from a medical background and her breadth of experience is evident in her writing, which is insightful and thoughtful.

If You’re Happy is an easy to delve into collection and reading just one of Robertson’s short stories a day could be enough to lift your mood.

If You’re Happy, Fiona Robertson
Publisher: University of Queensland Press
ISBN: 9780702263460
Pages: 288pp
RRP: $29.99
Publication date: 1 February 2022

Paula Thompson is a journalist who has written for The Advertiser, SA Weekend and the Stock Journal newspapers. She is now freelancing