The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘comfort’ as a state of physical well-being; in
Thank you, Rosie, for inviting me to talk about my comfort reads. It was incredibly difficult to pick just five to talk about because, to me, reading is the ultimate comfort activity. Curled up, reading on a cold, rainy day when the wind is howling outside and I’m snug and warm – that’s my idea of bliss!
So, as I can’t include the entire contents of my bookcases/Kindle I’ve checked them out and found the following precious (to me) books.
1. The Discontented Pony. Noel Barr
This tops the list because this book was the reason I was such an early reader. It belonged to my older sister and I loved it so much and used to beg people to read it to me. But my mum didn’t have time (I have 5 siblings!) and my sister didn’t have the inclination. So I learnt to read. I don’t remember how, I only know I would spend hours bent over this book, trying to make sense of the words. The copy in the picture is not my sister’s. That disappeared years ago. (She doesn’t share my need to hoard books) I found it in a charity shop many years ago and leapt on it with cries of joy. It has pride of place on my Treasured Books shelf ever since.
2. When We Were Very Young. By A A Milne.
Having just said that nobody in my family would read to me, my maternal grandmother used to read this to me when she was visiting or we went to stay with her. I loved it and knew many of the poems off by heart. (Still do, in fact!)
It is the reason my eldest son is called Christopher. There was never any doubt in my mind what my first son was going to be called, even before I became pregnant! And, I’m happy to say, that he loves the book as much as I do – although I can’t help wondering if part of the appeal came from the fact that if I started reading the poems as a bedtime story, I would find it very hard to stop at just one. It was a brilliant way of extending bedtime.
Years later, I read the poems to my grandchildren, although they didn’t like them quite so much, with the possible exception of The King’s Breakfast, which I do with all the different voices. How come I forget where I put the car keys yet remember in perfect detail every single line of that silly poem?
3. The Footsteps of Angels. H.W. Longfellow
Hope it’s all right to include a single poem as my comfort read. Now this really was a comfort read – at least it was when I was nine years old.
I’ve already mentioned my maternal grandmother and how she died when I was young. I was devastated by her death as she was a gentle, bookish lady and we really enjoyed each other’s company. She lived with us for the last year of her life and I missed her so much when she died. Our household was a noisy, very boy dominated one, (I have four brothers and my sister was away at school for a lot of the time) and I treasured the precious quiet time my grandmother and I spent together.
After she died, I inherited many of her books, one of which was a book of poems by H.W. Longfellow which she’d been awarded back in 1907/08 for ‘Regularity, Progress and Conduct.” It amuses me to see that Longfellow is described in the Preface as one of the ‘modern’ poets!
This book, like the other two, lives on the shelf allocated very precious books. The pages are all brown and crumbling and the whole thing is falling apart but I still treasure it.
I learnt The Footsteps of Angels just after her death. All ten verses of it! I had the idea that I was learning it for her. Reading it through now, I can see it’s very sentimental but at the time, it was a real comfort to grieving little nine year old me and brought me a little closer to my sorely missed ‘Nan’.
4. The Big Four. Agatha Christie.
My mother introduced me to Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy Sayers when I was about 12 and I have loved crime fiction ever since, both as a reader and a writer.
I hadn’t read any Agatha Christie for years although I really enjoyed most of the television productions, especially the ones with David Suchet as Poirot and Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. But a couple of years ago, we were staying near Dartmouth in Devon and were waiting to take the steam train up the Dart Valley. Of course, being as we were in the heart of ‘Agatha Christie’ country, there was a whole selection of her books on sale in the station shop. I chose The Big Four as I didn’t remember the story – and I was totally drawn in. I’d completely forgotten what a great story teller she was and couldn’t put it down.
That particular book brings back many memories, of my mother and, more recently, of a lovely holiday in a beautiful part of the world.
5. On Writing. Stephen King.
I bought this book ages ago and resisted reading it for year, mostly because I’ve never read any of Stephen King’s fiction (nor seen any of the films), as I don’t enjoy horror stories.
But I’m so glad I put my prejudice aside. Because here is a man in love with writing and every time I get a bit down and think I’m not cut out to be a writer and that maybe I should give it up and take up crochet or something, I dip in to this and my world is restored.
And isn’t that the point of a comfort read?
Paula Williams is living her dream. She’s written all her life – her earliest efforts involved blackmailing her unfortunate younger brothers into appearing in her plays and pageants. But it’s only in recent years that she discovered to her surprise that people with better judgement than her brothers actually liked what she wrote and were prepared to pay her for it.
Now, she writes every day in a lovely, book-lined study in her home in Somerset, where she lives with her husband and a handsome but not always obedient rescue Dalmatian called Duke.
She began her writing career writing fiction for women’s magazines (and still does) but has recently branched out into longer fiction. She also writes a monthly column, Ideas Store, for the writers’ magazine, Writers’ Forum.
But, as with the best of dreams, she worries that one day she’s going to wake up and find she still has to bully her brothers into reading ‘the play what she wrote’.
Her debut crime novel, Murder Served Cold, is a murder mystery set in a small Somerset village which bears a striking resemblance to the one she lives in. (Although, as far as she knows, none of her neighbours are cold-blooded murderers!) It was published by Crooked Cat Books in October 2018, and is the first in the Much Winchmoor Mysteries series, the second of which, Rough and Deadly, will be published soon!
Murder Served Cold can be bought at: https://mybook.to/murderservedcold
Social Media Links
Blog. at paulawilliamswriter.wordpress.com.
Her facebook author page is https://www.facebook.com/paula.williams.author.
Many thanks to Paula for taking part.