Opening up my comfort reads spot to guest authors has revealed a whole new world of reading material. Today I’m handing over the reins to historical writer Kate Braithwaite.
Gosh Rosie! Figuring out my favourite comfort reads has been great fun, but also a challenge. So many possibilities sprang to mind that in the end I had to give myself five categories of book that I would love to curl up with for a cosy afternoon’s escapism, and then pick one novel to represent that type of book. Here’s what I came up with:
A comic novel – The Girl in Blue by P.G. Wodehouse.
For total escapism, there is no one better than P.G. Wodehouse. Successful comic novels are thin on the ground but Wodehouse’s novels and his portrayal of a gentle world of mishaps, stolen pigs, strange aunts and broken engagements never fails to amuse me. I’m more a fan of his Blanding Castle books (of which Pigs Have Wings is a fine example) but Jeeves and Wooster are classic characters and there are many other stand-alone novels I’d encourage everyone to read. These are often love stories and many are set in the States and in the theatre. One of the things I love best about Wodehouse though, is that my Dad was also a great fan of his. When I randomly picked up The Girl in Blue in a bookshop when I was 16, my Dad was thrilled! Sharing a love of particular books with someone close to you is a real pleasure.
An historical novel – Sylvester or The Wicked Uncle by Georgette Heyer
Funnily enough my Dad bought me the first Georgette Heyer book I ever read (I’d forgotten that until this very moment!) It was Cousin Kate and although it’s not my favourite, I’d happily pick up any of them and re-read them. Heyer’s novels combine Regency romance, adventure and humour, often with a hero or heroine with a sparkling pair of clear grey eyes. My favourite, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Sylvester, about a young woman, Phoebe, who writes and publishes an anonymous novel. She takes as her villain Sylvester, Duke of Salford, a man she has met briefly but knows little about – only to find out after the novel takes London by storm – that her family think he is the perfect man for her. As her fiction proves to be closer to real life than Phoebe could have dreamed of, and her feelings for Sylvester undergo a sea-change, it seems her writing career may ruin everything.
A crime novel – The Poet by Michael Connelly
For time out from real life, there is nothing like a real page-turning crime novel. I love a book that I can’t put down: the kind you try and hold in front of your face in one hand, when you have a spoon in the other because you’re supposed to be busy cooking the tea. My favourites include Ian Rankin, Minette Walters, Peter May, Elizabeth George, Jeffrey Deaver and John Connelly. I’ve read so many P.D. James and Agatha Christie novels that I have way too many options here, but I’m choosing The Poet as I can remember my husband handing me a copy of it. He had just finished it and pretty much insisted that I start reading it immediately so that we could talk about it. The Poet is a very nasty serial killer who leaves quotes from Edgar Allan Poe at each crime scene. I read it in great big gulps. It’s classic crime for me.
A classic – Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
This has been a tough decision! Jane Eyre nearly grabbed the nomination, but given that the choice here is all about comfort reads, Anne just pips Jane. Although not as ‘great’ a book, Anne of Green Gables is in more fun. I read both as a teenager and have read Jane Eyre several times since. I didn’t re-read Anne though, until I was in my thirties. We were living in Canada and took a family holiday with our 3 kids to Prince Edward Island where the Anne series of novels is set. Returning to the book as an adult I was so struck by what an excellent and enjoyable novel Anne of Green Gables really is. I love the relationships between Anne, Marilla and Matthew and it’s a very funny and genuinely touching story. My kids still laugh at me for dragging them around the Green Gables house on that holiday but I don’t care. I loved every minute of it.
A series – The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett
For complete reading comfort, I think there is nothing as wonderful as a series of big fat books. There are six of these in the Lymond Chronicles, each one a dramatic adventure in their own right, but all telling the story of my literary crush, Francis Lymond, and his incredible life in the sixteenth century. Lymond is Scottish (like me), handsome (naturally), incredibly clever (obviously), but also very complex and secretive. The novels have everything – family secrets, adventure, politics, kindness and cruelty, love and tragedy. Dunnett’s writing is vivid, her world building is brilliant and her characters are fascinating. I might just have to go and get started on the whole series again, starting with The Game of Kings right now. If you haven’t read them – do!
Kate Braithwaite was born and grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her first novel, Charlatan, was longlisted for the Mslexia New Novel Award and the Historical Novel Society Award. Kate lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and three children.
Kate’s first novel, Charlatan, revealed the underworld of fortune-tellers and poisoners that scandalised the court of Louis XIV and threatened to bring down his most famous mistress, Athénaïs, Madame de Montespan.
In The Road to Newgate (Crooked Cat, 2018) attention turns to a very different drama, playing out at exact the same period, just across the channel in London.
THE ROAD TO NEWGATE
What price justice? London 1678. Titus Oates, an unknown preacher, creates panic with wild stories of a Catholic uprising against Charles II. The murder of a prominent Protestant magistrate appears to confirm that the Popish Plot is real. Only Nathaniel Thompson, writer and Licenser of the Presses, instinctively doubts Oates’s revelations. Even his young wife, Anne, is not so sure. And neither know that their friend William Smith has personal history with Titus Oates.
When Nathaniel takes a public stand, questioning the plot and Oates’s integrity, the consequences threaten them all.
“Moved me greatly and brought tears to my eyes. Gripping, moving and brilliantly captures this tense and sometimes brutal episode in late seventeenth-century English history.” Andrea Zuvich, author & historian.
“A real pleasure to read,” Denis Bock, author of The Ash Garden & The Communist’s Daughter.
“Meticulously researched, vividly imagined, and deftly plotted. Rich, resonating and relevant.” Catherine Hokin, author of Blood & Roses, the story of Margaret of Anjou.
Buy the book: mybook.to/theroadtonewgate