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June Reading – Comfort Reads & Escapism

Do you have a book that feels like nothing so much as the papery (or digital…

Do you have a book that feels like nothing so much as the papery (or digital, I guess) equivalent of a snuggly toy and favourite blanket, lovely people? What is it? Let me know in the comments!

I’ve been indulging shamelessly in comfort reads this month (and also part of last – time is getting a bit weird and stretchy, and I’m not sure what happened to my book vid schedule). It’s all been about fun, happy reads that have soothed me rather than challenged me – and that hopefully let me sleep at night, although that’s still not really something I’ve got the hang of at the moment.

And I was very much set off in this direction by the rediscovery of a childhood favourite, My Family & Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. I adored this book as a wee small thing. I read it over and over, and my decision as a 20-year-old to head to Europe and work in Greece was in no small part due to Durrell’s descriptions of Corfu. Although, admittedly, I’ve never made it to Corfu itself, and I’m not sure if I want to. I kind of like my semi-fictional, 1930’s Corfu, peopled with eccentric Countesses, friendly fishermen, and a whole horde of fascinating critters.

That set the tone for the month, so there have been some fantastic MG reads, a read by a favourite author (although the book was less so), and then a return to Toot Hansell in preparation for getting started on the fifth Beaufort book. All in all, it’s been a most pleasant month of reading …

Gerald Durrell, Diana Wynne Jones, Alexander McCall Smith, reading, bookworm, books, comfort reading, escapism

The Corfu Trilogy, Gerald Durrell (My Family & Other Animals; Beasts in My Belfry; Garden of the Gods). Do you like wildly eccentric families with equally bizarre friends and acquaintances? How about discovering the mating habits of tortoises? Or following the thrilling battle between a large, determined gecko and an enormous, ravenous praying mantis? Can you be fully entertained reading about these, and never mind a plot? Then these may just be the books for you. An absolute return to childhood for me – I forgot how vividly Durrell describes Corfu, and how immersed you become in it. These are just beautiful, affectionate books, with as much love extended to the scorpions and water snakes as to his family. Five of Mother’s legendary scones and drinks taken in the town square, listening to gossip.

“Sometimes the fresh load of guests would turn up before we had got rid of the previous group, and the chaos was indescribable; the house and garden would be dotted with poets, authors, artists, and playwrights arguing, painting, drinking, typing, and composing. Far from being the ordinary, charming people that Larry had promised, they all turned out to be the most extraordinary eccentrics who were so highbrow that they had difficulty in understanding one another.”
― Gerald Durrell, My Family and Other Animals

Charmed Life, Diana Wynne Jones. This book was just pure fun. A funny and inventive middle-grade novel following a little boy and his sister, who are taken in by an enchanter. Cat, our small hero, is quite sure he isn’t magical at all, unlike his big sister. Forbidden to practise magic, she goes to greater and greater (and more and more entertaining) lengths to try and show the enchanter just how good she is. The end result is a wonderful romp of a book, with a lovely heart formed of friendship and the understanding that just because you can’t do the same things someone else can, it doesn’t make you any less important or powerful. Five pieces of toast with marmalade, and a large mug of coffee.

“She said Mr Nostrum would give his eyes just for your three letters.”

Has Mr Nostrum given his eyes for my letters?” asked Chrestomanci. “It hardly seems worth it.”

“No. He just gave Gwendolen lessons for them,” said Cat.

“What? For his eyes? How uncomfortable!” Chrestomanci said.

― Diana Wynne Jones, Charmed Life

The Magicians of Caprona, Diana Wynne Jones. Two households, both alike in magic, in fair Caprona, where we lay our scene… Just like the original, only less dying and romance, more friendship, spells gone haywire, and (as in Charmed Life) a small boy learning that just because his ability doesn’t look like anyone else’s, it doesn’t make it any less important. This was another fun read, full of magic and friendship and a nice bit of overcoming learned hatreds. Plus there are talking cats. And griffins come to life. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Charmed Life, but it was another very fun read. Five servings of excellent pasta.

“He was told, a little smugly, that cats do not need wings.”

― Diana Wynne Jones, The Magicians of Caprona

Corduroy Mansions, Alexander McCall Smith. Like his 44 Scotland Street series, this is a a gentle snapshot of the lives of the characters living at – or connected to – a single building, in this case Corduroy Mansions in London. As always, McCall Smith introduces the characters with great affection, and as ordinary as they are you can’t help but be interested in their lives and mishaps. I didn’t find them as engaging as the characters of 44 Scotland Street, but it was a lovely read. Four herbal teas.

“He knew that one should not punch people who annoyed one, although there was a case for it at times, a seemingly irresistible case.”
Alexander McCall Smith, Corduroy Mansions

Ratings done – so onto the vid! Sorry about the weird fluctuating lighting. I will figure out the right spot to do book chats at some point.

Now over to you, lovely people – have you ever travelled somewhere, or made a change in your life because of a book you read? Let me know in the comments!

And hey – fancy a brand new short story this weekend? Then join the newsletter below, get your hands on some dragonish tales to tide you over, and be all ready for the newsletter-exclusive short story on Sunday!

alexander mccall smith, diana wynne jones, escapism, feel-good reads, Gerald Durrell, reading

  1. S Godsell says:

    Favorite comfort book ever? Your dragons of course!

    1. Carolyn says:

      Obvious, innit – we love cats and dragons. I confess my comfort reading lies with the 44 Scotland Street series, Narnia (not enough dragons), and The Reluctant Dragon.

      So glad you didn’t succumb to temptation and go to Corfu as there are far too many tourists now who have altered all the peaceful parts.

      Have you read The Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun? The books have an ex newspaper man turned detective with his 2 clever detecting Siamese.

      1. Kim Watt says:

        How can we go wrong with cats and dragons? 😉

        And yes – I really enjoy 44 Scotland Street as a bit of comfort reading too. Also some Janet Evanovich for pure popcorn. I’ve not come across The Cat Who series though – it sounds fun! I shall be putting that on my reeeeally long wish list.

        I’m kind of glad I never went to Corfu, too. I knew it’d never be anything like what I had in my head. I loved Greece though – I worked out there for two seasons, and it was just magical.

    2. Kim Watt says:

      Thank you SO much! That’s just too lovely – I’m so glad the dragons are bringing you a little escape <3

  2. BJ says:

    I love “The Magic Ship” by Sandra Paretti, I have read it three times. Sorry no cats or dragons. The book is a historical fiction about the German luxury liner the Kronprinzessin Cecile. She put in to the port of Bar Harbor, ME in order to avoid being taken at the beginning of the WWI. The story tells about how the passengers, crew and town residents handled this change of itinerary in the cruise.

    1. Kim Watt says:

      That sounds fascinating! I find it really interesting how sometimes our comfort reads aren’t what you’d necessarily immediately think of as comforting. I often go back to reread Stephen King books, because I know I’m in safe hands – I’ll enjoy them, be immersed in them, and can just go with the story rather than the world intruding. It’s all down to what we need at the time!

  3. Lona says:

    My biggest go-two comfort reads are Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. Another is Lord of the Rings, just sinking into Middle-earth is comforting by itself. The Memory, Sorrow & Thorn trilogy by Tad Williams is also a favourite. And now of course my growing Kim M Watt collection! Reading about dragons drinking tea and eating scones is very comforting indeed, and make me long to live in the Yorkshire Dales, lol.

    1. Kim Watt says:

      Hang on, I just need a moment to recover from finding my books in this sort of company… *fans self desperately*

      Seriously, thank you so much! That’s a huge compliment. And Discworld is such a fantastic go-to for me, too. I love them – so clever and observant yet pure escapism at the same time. And I keep thinking I need a visit back to Middle Earth – I loved it so much as a kid, and i read and re-read those books over and over. I shall have to look up Tad Williams, too, as I love all your choices!

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