Thursday, 16 December 2010
COMFORT READS FOR CHRISTMAS
Two terrific books to enjoy over Christmas
COMFORT and JOY. INDIA KNIGHT.
Clara Dunphy, Comfort and Joy's laugh-out-loud-funny fortysomething heroine,is determined to have the perfect Christmas - 'It's not that I want it to be perfect in the Martha Stewart sense,' she says, '- I don't even own any matching crockery. I just want it to be...nice. Warm. Loving. Joyous. All those things. Christmassy.'
As the novel opens, Clara is battling with the last minute Oxford Street crowds, on the impossible search for the most perfect of perfect presents for two of the most wonderfully drawn characters in her book, her mother, Kate, and her fabulous mother-in-law, not to mention the topping up of presents for the children, in case there's not quite enough - and immediately one is drawn in. One of India Knight's great talents lies in the way she very quickly establishes vast swathes of common ground with her reader, and Comfort and Joy is empathy central.
Comfort & Joy is set on a series of Christmasses, past and present, and is about, amongst other things, that very modern phenomenon, the blended family. It's India Knight's first novel, 'My Life on a Plate', ten years on, and I liked it so much I immediately had to re-read 'My Life on Plate' to remind myself of her characters backstories, and to get more of the witty, self-deprecating heroine and her extraordinary family. I read 'My Life on a Plate' aloud to my sister on a long car journey, like a kind of bonkers low-rent talking book, and we were screaming with laughter so much that once we'd arrived at our destination, my sister wouldn't let me out of the car until I'd finished reading. I think she's hoping for a repeat performance with Comfort & Joy.
Comfort & Joy is available from Amazon - although it's still in hardback, it's an extremely bargainacious £7.75
MY LAST DUCHESS: DAISY GOODWIN
Another delicious book is Daisy Goodwin's 'My Last Duchess'. Set against the backdrop of country house life at the end of the nineteenth century, it's a wonderful tale of the tensions between love and money, and between class and wealth. Cora is the beautiful daughter of an extremely socially ambitious and super-rich American mama, keen to get her daughter married off in Vanderbilt style to a title and Ivo Maltravers, the dashing yet broke Duke of Wareham, fits the bill perfectly.
If one were trying to sell-in the mini-series, one might say it's Wharton's The Buccaneers meets Downton Abbey - hugely enjoyable, glamorous, and a terrific comfort read to curl up with on Boxing Day.
Again it's on special offer at Amazon for £7.17 (what is this £7.17? I keep trying to work out the percentage discount off the list price but my tiny, sleep-deprived brain can't cope with it)