comfort reads

There’s always something I go back to. Books, falling apart at the seams, that need to be close by as a reassurance. Good humour, good writing, and a mixture of images from my own imagination and old TV programmes or films. Maybe it’s simply the freedom to revisit the depths of youthful emotion…

Anne of Green Gables, LM Montgomery

1974 edition

This edition tied in with the 1974 BBC production. Yes, I am that old. I was totally enthralled by the imaginative, flighty, dramatic, thoughtful Anne, her friendships and her rivalries. The relationships with Matthew and Marilla, her adoptive family, have lasted long in my imagination. How the elderly brother and sister adapted to the red haired whirlwind who unexpectedly entered their lives (they’d been expecting the orphanage to send a boy), and how Avonlea adapated. There are stories about green hair, accidental teenage drunkenness, academic competition. And there is devastating, life changing, grief. I watched the Megan Fellows as Anne production about 2 years ago, and was still in floods of tears. Excellent stuff!

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

1980 edition

You’re probably thinking about Gregory Peck now. No bad thing; he does a wonderful job of recreating Atticus Finch and his belief in Justice, respect and love for family. The book is full of believable characters and is told through the eyes of a child in the 1930s South. Scout tells the story as an adult, so we get a sense of what she now knows, but didn’t recognise then. The story is full of warmth and humour, despite the issues of rape and racial inequality, and the loss of innocence of the children and the town.  The childhood ‘bogeyman’ is called ‘Boo’. Simple, and brilliant. Two of my favourite lines are right at the end of the book

‘As I made my way home, I thought Jem and I would get grown but there wasn’t much else left for us to learn, except possibly algebra.’

‘Besides, nothin’s real scary except in books.’

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

1980 edition

Now  I suppose you’re thinking of Colin Firth, in either of his Mr Darcy roles…

Pride and Prejudice is both funny and sobering- a comedy of manners, wordy and articulate, but biting on the choices facing women. Mr Bennet has five daughters, and no way of supporting them or his wife after his death, so they need to get married. However, the Bennets don’t have the social standing, or the social know how, to make them the most attractive of options for society. Social settings are largely formal, and full of unspoken rules, from the set pieces of dances, to playing cards. The two eldest, Jane and Elizabeth, do have some social skills, albeit tempered by shyness or temper.  The story is about how they develop those skills and their relationships, in particular how Elizabeth and Darcy achieve respect for each other and reach agreement. Jane and Elizabeth are then in a position to look after the rest of the family. It’s great, cringemaking, and entertaining.

These are books that I return to time and again. There are others (come in Marian Keyes), and there seems to be a bit of a pattern emerging- it looks like I gravitate to humour, warmth and a bit of social commentary. Anyone surprised by that?


10 thoughts on “comfort reads

  1. Hello? Is that me?

    I’ve just read TKAMB for the first time and I can therefore honestly say that I love all of these books. My favourite Austen is ‘Persuasion’, however.

    I loved both those tv versions of AoGG; I particularly remember Kim Braden with green hair 🙂

  2. Have to admit I’ve only read Pride and Prejudice, which I’ve never fancied re-reading. Keep meaning to read To Kill a Mocking Bird but never have. The books I tend to re-read are for some reason not the warm, comforting ones but the rather creepy ones like The Collector, The Killjoy and Therese Raquin. Or quirky ones like A Confederacy of Dunces. Don’t ask me why, I’m funny like that.

  3. I have that same edition of A of GG in the same much-read state, and both of the others are favourites too. They are internally consistent worlds in which to get lost, with no grating authorial showmanship, just the flow of a good read. I was never sure whether to be Anne of GG or Katy of What Katy Did when I grew up. I may have blown my chances at both auditions.

  4. Anne of Green Gables and To Kill a Mockingbird are the dearest books in the world! I have never read Pride and Prejudice, but if this list is anything to go by, I bet it’s wonderful too 🙂

  5. Tilly, I was hoping to find a clip of that on YouTube to link to, but there’s only a few bits from the second series.

    Nick, you’ve given me more to read, though I normally avoid ‘creepy’. Did you ever read the horrible Japanese one we read for our bookclub, Out?

    Mise, I had the health problem with Katy. I couldn’t just lie still.

    PKG and Pinkjumpers, welcome! This blog is a little bit of everything, so I hope you enjoy some of the non booky bits too 🙂

  6. Nick – ‘Out’ sounds as if it was written for you!! Otherwise – TKAMB has to be one of my all time favourites. (Although – when I suggested it for bookclub it got the thumbs down. surprizingly!!) And any Jane Austin. For mystery, I have to go with Umberto Eco and for humour (gentle, wry), Alan Bennett. But- I am willing, on occasion, to step outside my comfort zone. Witness – ‘Out’

    1. If I remember rightly someone was pushing us to go outside our comfort zone and read ‘Out’ 🙂 We all went ‘oh yes, Xtrekki, that’s a good idea’ and dutifully bought- paid good money for- Out. Nick, my copy is probably still in the Ormeau Rd Oxfam shop. I read TKAMB again in protest/ head cleansing when I couldn’t get on with Out. Bad bookclub choices are why we need comfort reads on standby!

  7. Love To Kill a Mockingbird – one of my favorite scenes in all of literature occurs near the end of it (“Hey, Boo.”) Pride and Prejudice is wonderful as well. Have you ever read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? I thought it was great fun. Also loved the movie (or actually compressed television series) Lost in Austen, where a modern woman discovers that her bathroom is connected to the Bennett’s attic.

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