How Happy to Be


294 pages
ISBN 0-7710-6897-2
DDC C813'.6




Reviewed by Douglas Ivison

Douglas Ivison is the Graduate Coordinator, Department of English,
Lakehead University, Thunder Bay.


Katrina Onstad is a prominent Canadian arts journalist. Her first novel
draws on her experiences as the film critic for The National Post.

Maxime, the jaded narrator, is a 30-something newspaper film critic who
is trying, so far without success, to get fired. Onstad’s portrayal of
the celebrity industry and the film critics who are complicit with it,
which occupies about two-thirds of the novel, is entertaining but not
particularly original.

Onstad clearly wants to do more, for Maxime is also a woman who is
running away from her childhood and her dysfunctional father. Her mother
died when she was eight, leaving her to be raised by her nomadic hippie
father in an island commune off the coast of British Columbia. Raised in
ignorance of popular culture, Maxime left the commune at 16 and embraced
the popular culture that is the antithesis of her childhood existence.
In the last third of the book, Maxime rejects the inauthentic life she
has been living by coming to grips with her past.

Despite structural flaws and a predictable denouement, How Happy to Be
is an engaging and highly readable novel.


Onstad, Katrina., “How Happy to Be,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024,