Book of the Month: The Happy Marriage

It’s the first Book of the Month of a new year! And what better way to celebrate than with the fascinating story of a doomed marriage, told from both sides. From internationally acclaimed author Tahar Ben Jelloun, The Happy Marriage will be published 14 January by Melville House.


This January we have an exciting new title from Melville House to look forward to. The Happy Marriage is a novel of two halves, telling the complex story of a marriage from both sides. The husband, a painter in Casablanca, is convinced the marriage is the cause of a stroke that left him paralysed at the height of his career. Confined by his illness, he begins to write a book about the marriage, detailing every hellish moment he believes led to his downfall. When the wife finds this secret book, she responds point by point with her own version of events, leading the reader to question who is right and who is wrong.

On the surface, this could seem like a simple exploration of the nature of human relationships. But contextually, The Happy Marriage is so much more. Set in Morocco in 2003, the story takes place before reforms to the Mudawwana – the family code – come into effect. Awareness of women’s rights is growing yet marriage remains a sacred institution that could be seen to limit women. With this backdrop, acclaimed author Tahar Ben Jelloun presents a complex, striking and poetic novel that tears apart preconceived notions of what marriage really stands for.

In many ways, there is no better writer to tell this story; Ben Jelloun has been described as a spokesman for the Arab revolution and has written extensively on the Arab Spring. As a fiction writer, he has won nearly every literary award in France since his first novel in 1971, and has been nominated for the Nobel Prize several times. He has been called “Hauntingly poetic and original” by the TLS and “A writer of social and moral acuteness” by the Los Angeles Times. The Guardian writes “Ben Jelloun is arguably Morocco’s greatest living author, whose impressive body of work combines intellect and imagination in magical fusion.” With such glowing endorsements, The Happy Marriage is undoubtedly an exciting new addition to bookshop shelves across the UK.

Ultimately, the book has wide appeal. Married readers will find much humour, wit and poignancy in this doomed couple; readers with an interest in the Arab world will find it a fascinating exploration of society; book groups will find it a fantastic choice with many discussion points. Feminists and gender students will find much here too, as will any general reader looking to expand their horizons and discover new, top-rate literature. Out on January 14th, we can expect plenty of buzz over The Happy Marriage when it hits shops.

  • Bill Godber, Managing Director


The Happy Marriage will be published on 14 January by Melville House and costs £18.99 (ISBN: 9781612194653)

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