Comfort Reading

I will admit I’ve been avoiding blogging here (for almost a month now), mostly because of the stress and busyness that’s been going on with my husband’s recovery from surgery. He was in the hospital longer than anticipated (two weeks instead of one), but luckily he’s back home now and things are slowly returning to normal, although he still won’t be able to return to work for over a month. I’ve only been back at work for a week now and with the return of my old routine, started to think about returning to book blogging as well.

Every fall I like to read something seasonally appropriate, whether it’s Persuasion by Jane Austen, a lot of poetry (especially by Keats and Yeats), or even the first part of Lord of the Rings one year. This year I began to want to read more classics from the 19th century, so I started rereading Anna Karenina, but after about a hundred pages, found it too sad for the circumstances and eventually moved on to Our Mutual Friend in an effort to read more Dickens. It’s actually the best Dickens I’ve yet tried (I’ve finished Bleak House and stumbled about halfway through both Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities) — it’s funny, imaginative and big-hearted, just like my grandpa who also loves Dickens (one of my reasons for continuing to try to read his books I admit), but again, after about 300 pages, the manipulative characters began to get to me and I put it down as too stressful also.

Finally, I said forget all this, I’m rereading Jane Eyre. But… remember her depressing early childhood? Yes, that also was too much for me. (And now maybe you see why I haven’t been blogging lately!)

I finally indirectly found a book I could finish through a visit to a new bookshop in my neighbourhood. They had Mariana by Monica Dickens on the shelf! A Persephone book that isn’t Miss Pettigrew! I was touched and despite having already read it this year (and I admit, having mixed feelings about it), my husband urged me to buy it, knowing quite well how much I do love my Persephone books. Bringing it home and deciding where it would go on the shelf brought up the secondhand copy of Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey I found this summer and I quickly proceeded to read it, sitting on the floor next to the bookshelf! I had been putting off reading it since all the blog reviews said there was a bittersweet edge to the story, but by this time, I was simply happy to be immersed in another cozy early 20th century British fictional world. The details in this charming little novella were what made it so soothing for me, the descriptions of flowers in every room, rooms laid out for tea, country girls inexpertly wearing makeup and the apparent caddishness of wearing emerald socks at a wedding. I wondered in the end at people who could be so little aware of their own feelings but it had a more thoughtful, than depressing, tone and all in all, it reaffirmed my desire to continue collecting and reading everything Persephone Books brings back into print.

I’m now back in the 19th century with Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, which is sweet and gently comic, about the only thing I’m up for right now! I’ll probably finish it soon and then may reread North and South or Bridget Jones’s Diary and I also have Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski from the library, another Persephone with a compelling cover!

Any suggestions on other comfort reads of yours would be very much appreciated.

13 thoughts on “Comfort Reading

    • Carolyn says:

      Yes, I have seen that list, but it’s nice to see it again! I’ve got Little Women and the Mapp & Lucia books on hold at the library and will definitely check out more cozy reads from that list for the fall. (What a cold September!) I don’t know why Madame Bovary is on that list though…

  1. Steph says:

    Have you read I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith? It’s such a wonderful uplifting book, and feels very much like it should be a Persephone book. Another good one is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery which I read at the beginning of the year and reviewed over at my blog… In that vein the Anne of Green Gables books are also always great (and are in the public domain, so easily read!)!

    • Carolyn says:

      I do own I Capture the Castle but haven’t gotten to it yet. And as a Canadian, I grew up with L.M. Montgomery as one of my favourite authors and The Blue Castle as one of my favourite books of hers! I haven’t read them in years though…

  2. Penny says:

    Nice to see you back, and good to know that your husband’s out of hospital at last. I hope all’s going well with him.
    I haven’t blogged for a while either, because I should be studying for an exam and have been avoiding even looking at my favourite blogs in case I get distracted. I had to have a look at this post, though, with one of my favourite types of title: Comfort Reading! I’ve printed out India Knight’s list and will be referring to it often!
    My daughter is reading ‘Jane Eyre’ for the first time and is finding the childhood chapters very upsetting. I’ve told her it gets A BIT more cheerful… I can’t remember if you’ve read ‘I Capture the Castle’? It’s my new favourite comfort read. And, of course, the ‘Anne’ books are just wonderful. ‘Jane of Lantern Hill’, by the same author, too…
    OK, wee break over…. Nice to chat with you! 🙂

    • Carolyn says:

      Hi Penny, so nice of you to stop by during your busy period! I used to try to get my mom to just watch Jane Eyre with me and she was always complaining about how melancholy and dark it was (she prefers Jane Austen). I guess I am rather melancholy in general, but lately I need something brighter, hence Elizabeth Gaskell.

  3. Mystica says:

    My bestest one is still Pride and Prejudice – I then go to Joanna Trollope for its very simplistic style and then to Agatha Christie. At the end I feel on top of the world.

  4. bookssnob says:

    Anne of Green Gables!

    Sorry you are having a hard time at the moment. When life is tough, comfort reading is a saviour. My favourite comfort reads tend to be Victorian children’s books – Little Women, A Little Princess…also Jane Eyre, though clearly that wouldn’t work for you! Persuasion and Emma are also dearly loved comfort reads for me. Hmmm…what else? Have you read E M Delafield’s Diary of a Provincial Lady series? They are wonderful. And I second The Blue Castle by L M Montgomery though it’s not easy to find these days.

    Hope your husband is on the mend and that you move into Autumn with lovely cosy reads.

    • Carolyn says:

      Thanks Rachel! I have indeed been thinking of your new love for Anne and wondering if it’s time to revisit those old childhood classics. So far I’m trying to go for new things and ended up absolutely adoring Cranford and have now started The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, which is enjoyable.

  5. Christina says:

    I agree with many of the suggestions already mentioned, especially L. M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle. I would also recommend The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, as well as anything by Eva Ibbotson (I especially like A Countess Below Stairs).

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