If you ask anyone familiar with Transactional Analysis about works by Eric Berne, they will most likely say Games People Play. After all, this is arguably the most readable and certainly the most recognized work of his. And the catchy title helps as well.
What is less familiar is Berne’s “Children’s” book titled The Happy Valley. The word “Children’s” is in quotations because this book, with its illustrations and animals with catchy names, appears geared for kids. However, the many layers and themes present make it so that adults can appreciate it too.
The Happy Valley received very little recognition in Berne’s lifetime and was not a big seller outside of the TA community. As of today, it is no longer being published. But that did not stop American author and essayist Jonathan Lethem from writing a brilliant review of the work in 2004. That review was titled The Loneliest Book I’ve Read.
Excerpt from Lethem’s Review
I’m writing today about the loneliest book I’ve read – lonely in the wonderful sense that I’ve still never met anyone else who’s ever read it. This has increasingly seemed a wonderful thing to me. I’ve learned to value, actually to crave, that old privacy which used to be my constant familiar when I read, whether I was still selecting children’s books or making my earliest explorations of the grownup’s shelves.
Like any book in the mind of a child, it had the authority of its existence, which was all it needed then. You had Alice In Wonderland , The Phantom Tollbooth, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and A Wrinkle In Time: I had all of these and The Happy Valley, too. For me it was just as deep as those books, equally as a singular and self-contained a fantasy. And unlike the others, it has never been decanted into adult context – no erotic photography or disguised Benjamin Disraeli, no Christian allegory, no disappointing movie adaptations.
To read the review in its entirety, you can see it on Jonathan Lethem’s website here.
The Happy Valley can be purchased from Amazon.com by going here.