2014: 4-6. Cosy English Novels

My reading year has started off slowly, but my dear sister gave me a big old gift card to Amazon, and I tried to use it all on comfort reads.  And one the categories of comfort reads I fell upon was books about English towns in the 1930's - a la Cold Comfort Farm.  It's like reading a Miss Marple book, but with no murder, or like Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day.  Anyway, that was what I was shooting for, and I had various degrees of success.

4. Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons

This is the one that put the whole idea in my head.  I saw this collection of short stories, written by the author of Cold Comfort Farm,* and wanted it, and then went off to find other things like it.  The collection itself is ok - it's mid century short stories, so (as the introduction by Alexander McCall Smith so helpfully explains), they all have a complete beginning middle and end, often with a twist - no New Yorker slice of life stories here.  Not to be redundant, but they really did remind me of Christie short stories, though most aren't crime related.  They aren't earth shattering - it's not Alice Munroe up in here, but they went down easy, and I enjoyed the book.  The one story set at Cold Comfort is set before Flora Poste arrived, so it's all still bleak and ridiculous, but it's fun, if you liked Cold Comfort.  Summation - I don't think anyone who isn't a Gibbons fan need run out and get this, but go read Cold Comfort (seriously, I feel as strong about that I do about Love in a Cold Climate and Auntie Mame) and then decide if you'd like a little more.

5. Miss Hargreaves, Frank Baker

"Miss Hargreaves" I murmured. "Miss Hargreaves?"

I was so so certain from the description (and the fact that it was published by the Bloomsbury Group) that I would love this novel - that it would be exactly what I was looking for.  The plot sounded so so promising.  Norman Huntley and a friend are visiting a church in Ireland when they make up an 83 year-old acquaintance, Constance Hargreaves.  They even send her a letter a joke.  But the joke is on them when a very real (and very pushy) Miss Hargreaves appears in town and insists on their longtime acquaintance.  Complications ensue!

So that sounds exactly like the sort of book I was looking for! But, alas, there was less comic complications (though there was some of that) than metaphysical self searching about how Miss Hargreaves came to be.  Not that it's a bad book, but it wasn't what I wanted.  I liked the Spur of the Moment stuff, but not so much the way Norman dealt with it afterwards.

6. Miss Buncle's Book, D.E. Stevenson

"One fine summer's morning the sun peeped over the hills and looked down upon the valley of Silverstream"

Now this was exactly what I wanted.  It's the perfect cosy English read - well written enough to be enjoyable but not too demanding, with a nice lively plot! This tells the story of Miss Buncle, who needed some money, and so wrote a book about her town.  It gets published (under a pseudonym), and the people in town go berserk.  Complications ensue!
And I loved it! I loved Miss Buncle, I loved how her book changed people in town, I loved the inevitable happy ending.  I had thought, for some reason this was a modern book - a pastiche of 1930s cosy books, if you will, but it turned out to be the real deal - and there are sequels (which you bet your bottom I'm going to read).  I'm only surprised this hasn't been on Masterpiece or the BBC as a miniseries, because it so perfectly 1930's cosy British.  Loved it.  If you need an escapist read, and you have a penchant for the interwar years in Britain (which I sure do!) you will love this.

*Cold Comfort Farm is one of my very favorite books, and I was certain I'd blogged about it, but if I have I haven't copied it over from my archives yet.  Anyway, it is one of the greatest comic novels around and if you haven't read it, you should.**

** I saw something nasty in the woodshed!

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017