Happy Hour (2020)
Words by Mina Brennan
Happy Hour (2020)
Happy Hour follows 21-year-old narrator Isa and her friend Gala as they arrive in New York. We watch as they enter a cocktail filled world bubbling with adventure. Just like Isa’s signature drink: the French 75. Champagne, lemon juice, gin and a dash of syrup describes Granados’ debut perfectly.
I loved every moment of this novel, it captured the electrifying feeling of youth in a beautiful stream-of-consciousness storyline. We’ve had the masculine man in the city novel so many times, it was so refreshing to read about two women navigating independence. Sometimes by the skin of their teeth and sometimes very gracefully.
Isa is confident, exhilarating, in fact she’s confident in a way that women aren’t often portrayed. She talks to movie stars without getting fazed, and confronts her landlord (something which definitely takes courage, landlords are scary.) Because of Granados’ talent with narrative and her ability to create likeable and believable characters; this novel is a cocktail of buzzing adventure. The novel captures that elusive feeling, the one that arises at the beginning of a night, when walking to the bar, that feeling that every evening contains a beautiful ‘perhaps.’
The narrative felt like it was chaotic yet carefully and masterfully weaved. Jazz is the perfect way to describe this novel, it felt improvised and haphazard yet followed so many thought out and carefully layered storylines. The way that Jazz appears to be without rules or regulations until you realise, they’re all following the same time signature. Characters like an ensemble, dipped and dived in and out perfectly in time. As if Granados had thrown glitter confetti down on her page and let it fall into a beautiful harmonious messy delight. The refreshing thing about this novel is that it’s not all glitter and roses for Isa and Gala. They have a lot of shit thrown at them. Constantly having to think about money, where it is coming from, when they will next get it, and how best to use it. Granados’ doesn’t display living in New York as squeaky clean, there's a feeling that the characters are always on the edge of disaster.
Isa and Gala take fashion very seriously, and it’s fantastic. The description of their clothing was a delight. Granados really highlights the importance of self expression through fashion, the line; “People think clothing is frivolous, but it can really instill courage, and that's a good thing.” really made me smile, and it’s utterly true! All it takes is a head scarf and very large sunglasses to make you feel like the most glamorous thing since Audrey Hepburn. And it’s very useful for hiding large hangovers too. There's a lovely moment where Isa is wearing a yellow linen Escada dress, which forced her to live off of canned soup for a week after purchasing. I’ve been there many a-time. Tinned soup in return for a beautiful leather jacket - that's me most months.
The interesting thing about this novel is that the main relationship which is explored isn’t necessarily a romantic one, but one between two friends: Isa and Gala. Their friendship at times is intense but ultimately they bring out the better sides of each other. Where Isa is down to earth and witty, Gala is outspoken and chaotic - ultimately neither of them would do half the exciting things they do without the other.
It’s in this context that the men in their lives take on a ghost-like quality, we hear about them but never in much detail, which ultimately makes Isa and Gala’s friendship at the forefront of the storyline. Each chapter is dated, like a diary. Isa often talks about how she writes everything down in her journal, so perhaps the novel is her diary, and she’s keeping certain personal details about her love life to herself.
The magic of Happy Hour is that Granados writes characters who go out and do things. Isa and Gala go to talks by French economic theorists and say yes to after-hour drinks with scholars. Isa meets acquaintances on her travels through Europe, and later meets up with them in New York to drink French-75s in dimly-lit dive bars.
This book fell into my life at the perfect time, when I needed to be reminded about life’s adventures. Read it and boogie, darling.