The Cost of Happiness: Cultural References [SPOILER ALERT]

Here are the references to other books, movies, places, people, etc. in The Cost of Happiness. Non-fictional ones, that is. If we left anything significant out, please let us know in the comments.

Art Museum

Art MuseumDan’s apartment is in the Art Museum District and has a view of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I used to rent in Olde City. I finally decided to buy—just a condo. It has a great view of the Art Museum. How about you?” [Chapter Four]

Center City

Center CityThe central business district of Philadelphia, in which the major law firms are located, is known as Center City.

Meghan started to grin. “If you don’t mind, I need to run to Center City.”

“Sure, we can walk back to school and change—” Libby looked over at her. “Oh, you meant literally run, as in right now.” [Chapter Twenty-Eight]

City Hall

City HallDan’s office has a view of Philadelphia’s City Hall.

Dan got rid of Vicky pretty quickly, then sat back in his new corner office. Amazing they gave him Georgia’s office, seeing how she’d been a pretty senior partner. Located in the southeast corner of the building, it probably wasn’t much in demand. No view of the parkway, art museum, or Logan Circle. Instead, he had William Penn on top of City Hall in one direction and the other glass-and-chrome skyscrapers in the other. Compared to his office at Justice, even a crappy view from the thirty-ninth floor was pretty cool. [Chapter Four]

Dirksen Federal Building

Dirksen BuildingMeghan travels to Chicago to meet an Assistant US Attorney in the Dirksen Federal Building. The sculpture outside is by Alexander Calder.

A huge scarlet metal sculpture sat outside the Dirksen Federal Building. That was the last colorful thing Meghan saw as she entered the building. Once inside the US Attorney’s offices, everyone was dressed in gunmetal gray suits—even the women. No nonsense, that was the message. Also, We’re not kidding. [Chapter Two]


ElyriaDan and Meghan visit Greg Agnarsson in Elyria, Ohio, on the outskirts of Cleveland.

Dan turned back to Tessa. “Three days in Ohio? Preferably this week?”

“The two of you?” Tessa asked. Her tone was matter-of-fact but Meghan could feel herself blushing.

“Yes,” Dan said. No blushing in his voice.

“Where in Ohio?”

Meghan flipped back several pages in her notes. “Elyria. Outside Cleveland, I think.” [Chapter Fifteen]

Erin Brockovich

Meghan ironically suggests Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts, should be her favorite film.

“How about you? Any movies made you want to be a lawyer?”

Legally Blonde, of course,” she quipped. “Although I suppose now I should pick Erin Brockovich. The crusading paralegal who wins the case.” [Chapter Eleven]

Four Seasons Hotel

Four SeasonsCharacters in the book often meet at the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia.

Dan took Anne van Oostrum out to lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel.

This is lovely,” she said, indicating the elegance of the Swann Lounge. “What’s the occasion? Couldn’t we have talked in my office?” [Chapter Twenty-Four]

Franklin Institute

Franklin InstituteFergusson & Leith’s biannual dinner-dance is held at the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia’s science museum.

“Thank you, Wally.” Dan folded his hands at his waist. “I have a favor to ask. I would like to bring Ms. Mattson to the Fergusson Formal.”

Wally looked a bit surprised, saying only, “Ah.”

Meghan looked sideways at Dan. “The Fergusson Formal?”

He turned toward her. “It’s a biannual event. The firm rents the Franklin Institute for a formal dinner-dance. This year, it’s being held in mid-September.” [Chapter Nineteen]

Free Library

Free LibraryMeghan borrows books from the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Meghan left the office and headed north toward Logan Circle and the library. She loved that the Free Library was open late on weekdays. Nothing cheered her up quite as much as a new book. [Chapter Four]

Gaudy Night

Gaudy Night is the mystery novel by Dorothy L. Sayers in which Harriet Vane finally accepts the proposal of marriage from  Lord Peter Wimsey.

Meghan left the office and headed north toward Logan Circle and the library. She loved that the Free Library was open late on weekdays. Nothing cheered her up quite as much as a new book. She was reading her way through Dorothy Sayers—Gaudy Night was next on her list. [Chapter Four]

The Graduate

Dan thinks Anne van Oostrum resembles Anne Bancroft in her role as Mrs Robinson of The Graduate.

Anne reached over to take his hand. To the other diners, it probably looked like some weird Mrs. Robinson-and-Benjamin scene. They even looked the part. Anne was so elegant and chic, while Dan felt confused and rumpled, twisted by his love for the unattainable girl. [Chapter Twenty-Four]

Gunga Din

Dan compares Meghan to the self-sacrificing Indian in the Kipling poem Gunga Din.

“It’s okay,” she assured him. “I love my job, really. It’s mindless at times. I even like that part.”

“You were born to be a lawyer. This paralegal bullshit is…well, bullshit.”

She hesitated, then went on, “I—I’ll admit that I am enjoying this work.” She nodded at the stack of memos. “Enjoying it a lot. I just don’t mind the other work.”

“You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din,” he quoted.

“Now that’s appropriate,” she teased. “Wasn’t Gunga Din some native servant or something?”

“Oh, you know what I mean,” he snarled. “I bet Gunga Din was actually respectful to his elders and betters, brat.” His eyes were still sunny skies. [Chapter Six]

Keokuk, Iowa

KeokukMeghan grew up in Keokuk.

“Are you from Philly originally?”


“Really? I’ve never been there. I picture lots of farmland and no hills.”

“I’m from Keokuk, which is in the southeast corner, along the Mississippi.”

“That must be beautiful.”

Meghan smoothed her hands down her thighs. “It is. Particularly in summer.” [Chapter Four]

Lady Justice

Lady JusticeDan has a statue of Lady Justice on his desk.

Dan placed his prized possession, a miniature Lady Justice sitting on a throne, in the center of the toys. She held a sword in one hand and a set of scales in the other. People always remarked on the sword. That was the general impression of Justice—she held scales. Fairness. That assumption amused Dan, who felt the sword made the balance possible. Lady Justice was nothing without it. [Chapter Three]

Legal Intelligencer

The Legal Intelligencer is a daily law journal serving Philadelphia’s legal community.

In a rare moment alone, Dan asked, “How do you know so much about what’s going on in the firm?”

“I read the conflicts checks emails, the firm newsletter, the Legal Intelligencer, even that gossip site online. I figure you can’t get too much information about your own law firm.” [Chapter Twenty-Two]

Legally Blonde

Meghan jokingly suggests she was influenced to become a lawyer by Legally Blonde, starring Reese Witherspoon.

She could feel his cheek resting a little on her head. His voice was low and resonant. “How about you? Any movies made you want to be a lawyer?”

Legally Blonde, of course,” she quipped. [Chapter Eleven]

Logan Circle

Dan and Meghan frequently visit Logan CircleLogan Circle. At its center is the Swann Memorial Fountain.

Dan leaned back and looked out the huge windows overlooking Logan Circle. It was raining but the fountain was on, its sprays a bluish-white against the gray stone of the Free Library on the far side of the circle. [Chapter Twenty-Four]

Love in the Afternoon

Meghan’s favorite movie is Love in the Afternoon, directed by Billy Wilder.

Okay.” He laughed. “Do you have a favorite movie?”

It’s not very highbrow,” she confessed. “Love in the Afternoon. Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper.” [Chapter Eleven]

Main Line

Main LinePhiladelphia’s Main Line is a group of affluent western suburbs along the route of the former Pennsylvania Railroad. Kassie comes from Bryn Mawr, one of the Main Line communities.

They had lunch at Silk City, a retro diner in Northern Liberties, then headed out to the Main Line.

Kassie found the dress in a hospital charity shop in Bryn Mawr. Smoky gray tulle with a fitted bodice and unlined tulle across the shoulders and upper arms giving the merest suggestion of sleeves. She sent Meghan to the dressing rooms to try it on. [Chapter Twenty]

Mellon Building

Mellon BuildingSusan Wolfson (Shana) works in the BNY Mellon Center.

Then the cab stopped alongside one of the office towers.

Where are we going now?” Meghan looked up at the doors—the Mellon Building. Who was in here?

You’ll see.”

He led her to the far bank of elevators. They got off at one of the law firm reception areas. Bradford Wayne. Depending on who you talked to, either the number one or number two firm in Philly. [Chapter Twenty-Six]

Old Threshers

Old ThreshersThe annual Old Threshers Reunion is a week-long celebration of antique agricultural equipment.

He turned toward her, his head up on his left hand. “What’s your T-shirt say?”

She glanced down, as if she couldn’t remember. “It from the Old Threshers Days back in Iowa. It’s like a county fair, only there’s a heavy emphasis on early steam-powered farm machines.” [Chapter Eleven]


PennMeghan and Kassie’s apartment building is close to the campus of the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn or Penn for short), where Kassie studies.

Her feet hurt. What had she been thinking wearing her black pumps to her new job as a barista? Maybe tomorrow she could wear flats…or something with some support? Could she wear her running shoes? No, probably not. What had the manager said about the dress code?

Finally, she was in the neighborhood west of Penn’s campus. C’mon, she wasn’t actually going to die walking. See? There’s the apartment building. [Chapter Twenty-Five]

Penn’s Landing

Penn's LandingPenn’s Landing is a waterfront area in central Philadelphia.

“You’re still going to Maine, though, right?” she asked.

“I can cancel. We could go to the fireworks at Penn’s Landing on Friday night?” Dan looked like he’d be willing to cancel everything if it would make her happy. [Chapter Twenty]

Philadelphia Zoo

Philadelphia Zoo BalloonThe Philadelphia Zoo is located in the Centennial District of Philadelphia. Its Zooballoon rises 400 feet in the air and is easily visible from the center of Philadelphia.

Dan was surprised on Monday afternoon to get a call from Wallace Leith’s secretary requesting his presence in the great man’s office. When Dan got there, he could see that status had its privileges. From Wally’s northwest corner office—which was twice the size of Dan’s and decorated in tasteful antiques and Oriental rugs—the view stretched from the dark honey stone of the Greek Revival art museum, along the Schuylkill River and Boathouse Row, past the tree line of Fairmont Park to the hazy horizon of the Main Line and beyond. Dan watched the Philadelphia Zoo balloon rise with more tourists on board. It still wasn’t as high as Wally’s office. [Chapter Six]


PhilsPhiladelphia’s Major League Baseball team, the Phillies or Phils, is mentioned several times in the story.

“We had a case about fifteen years ago. One of the partners—I won’t say who—took a paralegal with him to see a client in Pittsburgh. I gather their affair was open knowledge, although of course the partner’s wife and children weren’t privy to that detail.”

Wally rotated his chair to admire the view. “The partner in question is a huge Phillies fan. Season tickets, the whole package. The Phils were playing the Pirates during the time he and his inamorata were in Pittsburgh.”

Dan smiled at Wally’s old-fashioned term for “bimbo.”

Wally sighed. “Bad luck for the partner—he and the paralegal made it on TV during the broadcast, which his wife and teenage son were watching back here in Philly. I didn’t see it myself, but I’ve been informed it was quite the close-up. No one could be confused about the nature of their relationship.” [Chapter Six]

Ronald Searle

The below-referenced cat image comes from the Big Fat Cat Book by Ronald Searle.

Then she got to the last one. A cartoon by Ronald Searle, who did these wonderful pen-and-ink cats. This was a picture within the picture. In the foreground, a black-and-white cat, its back to the viewer, climbing a ladder to the spot where the paper had been torn back to reveal a scene in glorious color—an English cottage surrounded by flowers, with a fluffy white girl cat just waiting for him to join her. Only he never can. [Chapter Seventeen]

The Scarlet Letter

On their return from his business trip to Boston with Meghan, Dan thinks of The Scarlet Letter.

Dan knew better than to say anything. He’d bet a dollar that Meghan was convinced both Vicky and Darlene had mentally slapped scarlet letters to their foreheads. Hell, for all he knew, they had. Good lord, he and Meghan were both—he hesitated over the word “single” although it really wasn’t wrong—allowed to get involved. [Chapter Twelve]


SEPTASo she can save money, Meghan walks rather than use the SEPTA public transportation system in Philadelphia.

Meghan deliberately straightened her posture. Time to count her blessings—another part of the monthly ritual. She liked her one-bedroom apartment, and it was a blessing that she could afford to stay in it. She walked to work. It was only about thirty blocks and she actually enjoyed the exercise most days. Saved her the cost of a SEPTA bus pass, not to mention an expensive gym membership. And the costs associated with a car, she reminded herself wryly. Better for the environment, as well. [Chapter Four]

Sherman Act

Sherman ActThe Sherman Antitrust Act, passed in 1890, was the first federal antitrust law and is the source of all American antimonopoly laws.

Finally, Dan spoke very slowly. “Okay, I know you mean that, but that’s going to require plaintiffs’ counsel to agree to drop them. They’ve got the FCC case, why would they drop ProCell when they can show ProCell paid the FCC fine?”

By giving plaintiff’s counsel—and the feds—a Sherman Act case.”

She could hear Dan whistle at the thought of an antitrust violation—proof that the defendants conspired to fix prices. That would generate punitive damages…and a lot more money for the plaintiffs. “No way.” [Chapter Fifteen]

To Kill a Mockingbird

Dan mentions To Kill a Mockingbird as a film particularly influencing lawyers.

“Favorite movie.”

He thought for a moment. “Hard to answer, of course, because I have a couple. Twelve Angry Men is one. You know—with Henry Fonda as the lone juror holding out for acquittal? I know lawyers are supposed to say that To Kill a Mockingbird influenced them because Atticus Finch is such a great role model, but I love the drama of a single man arguing for what he believes in, challenging the prejudices of his fellow jurors and gradually winning them over. And as an added bonus, there are no lawyers in it.” [Chapter Eleven]

Tony Soprano

Blackjack McIntyre is famous for convicting Dino “T-Rex” Reggiano, Philadelphia’s equivalent to Tony Soprano of The Sopranos.

Better—well, cheaper certainly. Meghan’s a paralegal. Two months ago, she was the top student at Franklin Law but a family crisis required her to take a leave from law school, so Fergusson snapped her up.” Stretching the truth a little, but hey, all’s fair in a situation like this. “I met her when I judged a moot court competition in the spring. Trust me, Lou—she’s the brightest legal mind I’ve found in years. And I used to work with Blackjack McIntyre.”

“Wait, that guy who put away some Tony Soprano wiseguy named T-Rex?”

Dan smiled. “The very same. As good as Blackjack is, I’m still impressed with Meghan. So, do you have time for us this afternoon?” [Chapter Four]

Top Chef

Dan learns a lot about cooking from Top Chef.

“Remind me to have you over some night when Top Chef is on.”

“Let me guess. It’s a cooking show.”

“Yup. I’ve learned all sorts of fancy French cooking terms watching that show. I can’t manage the techniques, but I now know what the terms mean when I see them on a menu.” [Chapter Eighteen]

12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men, starring Henry Fonda, is one of Dan’s favorite movies.

“Favorite movie.”

He thought for a moment. “Hard to answer, of course, because I have a couple. Twelve Angry Men is one. You know—with Henry Fonda as the lone juror holding out for acquittal? I know lawyers are supposed to say that To Kill a Mockingbird influenced them because Atticus Finch is such a great role model, but I love the drama of a single man arguing for what he believes in, challenging the prejudices of his fellow jurors and gradually winning them over. And as an added bonus, there are no lawyers in it.” [Chapter Eleven]


WasecaMeghan’s mother—Bianca Boudreau—is incarcerated in the Waseca Federal Correctional Institution.

“I suspect you’re right. Another woman, Bianca Boudreau, agreed to a plea bargain. She’s doing forty-eight months at Waseca.”


“Low security FCI housing women. It’s in southern Minnesota.”

Dan scratched his chin. “Okay, so Bianca is the doer. What’s the connection to Meghan?”

Jack looked pained. “Boudreau’s her mother.”

That set Dan back. “Shit.” [Chapter Twenty-Four]


As a paralegal, Meghan isn’t given access to the Westlaw online legal research service.

I have some preliminary thoughts for a motion to dismiss. In the alternative, get the court to sever ProCell from the other defendants. I want to check the case law before I get your hopes up.

I should warn you, Vic—uh, a certain mid-level associate has been asking questions about what I’m working on. (She caught me in the law library. I don’t have access to Westlaw because, you know, I’m not an attorney.) I mumbled something about you having a quickie research project for me to complete. I may have rolled my eyes to cover how happy I was in the library. [Chapter Five]

Wharton School

Wharton SchoolKassie is stood up by a date she met at a “Wharton mixer”. Wharton is the University of Pennsylvania’s business school.

“Hey, where are you going?” Kassie asked. “Okay, I can tell where you’re going. What I wanted to know is why don’t you come out with me? I got stood up.”

“Stood up?” Kassie was precisely the sort of woman Meghan assumed guys went for.

“Yeah. Someone I met last weekend at a Wharton mixer. He was a bit pompous, but seemed harmless enough. We’d agreed to meet at a bar downtown, then he never showed.” [Chapter Five]

Wonder Woman

Dan compares Meghan to Wonder Woman.

Still, there was something about Meghan. Not spectacular looks, he supposed. Brown hair, no makeup, conservative clothes. And yet…when she started thinking like a lawyer, Meghan was transformed. Dan was reminded of a Wonder Woman comic he’d found in his sister’s bedroom when they were kids. Get Meghan talking about a case and she might as well have clicked on a pair of golden bracelets. It was actually a sort of sexy image: mousy—no, wait, she wasn’t mousy, not with those beautiful huge eyes—paralegal by day turns into smart lawyer at night, righting wrongs and seducing men when it suited her. [Chapter Four]

The Woodlands

The WoodlandsThe Woodlands estate in Philadelphia includes a federal style mansion, an arboretum, and a rural cemetery.

They stretched outside the law school, then headed off for Woodlands, Libby in the lead. Once inside the cemetery, they ran side by side. [Chapter Twenty-Eight]