Thursday 16 December 2010


Two terrific books to enjoy over Christmas


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


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)


Rose said...

I really did want to save Comfort and Joy to read on boxing day but I just couldn't! I loved My Life on a plate so much and this is that but with Christmas. Christmi. The Mother in Law is incredible- especially later in the book (I don't want to give anything away). I've rather bulk bought this for people to be honest

I don't know the second book but it does sound like an absolute pleasure.

Wishing you a slightly early but extremely Happy Christmas

nappy valley girl said...

Both these sound exactly like my kind of book and perfect for the Christmas holidays.

I'm actually going to email your post to my husband because he has no idea what books to get me for Christmas.

Miss Whistle said...

I've ordered India's book (and thank you for the reminder, have been meaning to do so for ages) and looking forward to reading it over Christmas.

Happy Christmas to you and yours, Mrs Trefusis!

Miss W x

Christina @ Fashion's Most Wanted said...

Dear Mrs T, what wonderful recommendations. I don't have either of these. I think I have everything by India Knight and Daisy Goodwin. I'm off to Amazon now. I order so much I'm on first name terms with their driver.

Have a fantastic Christmas xx

Tish Jett said...

Lovely, as always. I am so sorry you've given up on me, but I know I've been a terrible correspondent. (The reasons are reasonable, but the results thereof disappointing.)

I do, however, have a special request to ask of you if you would be so kind as to contact me at my e-mail address,

Hope all is well in all ways in your world.

Warmest regards,

Unknown said...

Great choices and reviews without revealing the plot. Wonderfully done Mrs T as always.

Of course if you miss the Amazon postal deadline both books are available in good independent book shops.

(Sorry, had to do that - professional duty and all...)

Helena xx

Unknown said...

I think I might have exactly the same literary taste as you. These both look right up my alley.

When my husband and I had been married just 6 months, we went to live in Africa and there was no radio or tv so I also read aloud to him. It was The Poisonwood Bible, and we were often screaming with laughter too.

So Lovely said...

Thank you for these recommendations - I shall order them both. x

Unknown said...

C&J is on my Christmas list (as well as an iPad but think that's pushing it).

teaching resources mary said...

Thanks for sharing. Nice post
Merry Christmas and hope you have a brilliant year ahead

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