It’s a funny old time at the moment isn’t it? There’s so much news about – and lots of it is depressing for various reasons, that working in news for my day (and this week night) job* is getting a bit tough. I’ve retreated into the world of Happy Endings. Dystopian fiction is firmly off the menu, as is anything that might end on death, destruction or a down note. This means I’ve been revisiting some old favourites again as well as reading loads of romance and cozy crime. You’ll get some posts soon on the best of the new stuff – but I thought I’d also share some of my favourite old friends and Not New books.
Witty interwar comedies, mostly of manners, set in Barsetshire. They’re a bit Mapp and Lucia (but with more sympathetic characters) and they remind me of the Diary of a Provincial Lady as well. If you like the world of Golden Age crime, but don’t want the murders, then come take a look for a bit of wry social satire. Virago are re-releasing them at the moment – and they’re gorgeous – but you should also be able to get them from a good second hand shop too. You may remember I had Northbridge Rectory as a BotW a few weeks back, but as well as that one, if you liked Provincial Lady… start at the beginning of the series with High Rising, but if you loved boarding school stories, start with Summer Half and if you liked Downton, start with Pomfret Towers.
Sookie Stackhouse, Harper Connelly, Lily Bard, Aurora Teagarden (a new book coming soon!) or Midnight, Texas, it doesn’t matter. Yes they all have a body count, and you might lose a character you like from time to time. But as escapist reading they’re pretty much all you could want. Soapy melodrama with vampires (sometimes), small towns and kick-ass women (although Rue can be a bit wet at times). Perfect for binge reading to take your mind off the real world. After all there aren’t any vampires, werewolves or witches in the real world.
The Cazalet Chronicles
Retreat into the world of Home Place, the Brig and the Duchy, their children and grandchildren. You meet them in 1937 and you can follow them through the Second World War and beyond across five books – until the grandchildren are grown up with families of their own. There are so many characters and so many different stories that you can read 400 pages without out noticing. Everyone has a favourite or two – mine are Rupert (from the children) and Polly and Clary (from the grandchildren). I think my mum’s copies are so well thumbed that they fall open to my favourite sections about each of them – especially in Casting Off. Glom on them on the beach if you’re on holiday, as I resist the temptation to rebuy a new matching set – you can get all 5 books for £6.99 from the Book People as I write this.
Vicky Bliss and Amelia Peabody
My kindle go-to at times like these is Elizabeth Peters’ Vicky Bliss and Amelia Peabody serieses. I tried to pick one, but I couldn’t. I mentioned both in passing in my Nightshift books post back in this blog’s early days and Amelia got a shout out in my Summer Reading post two years ago, but I was shocked I hadn’t given either a post of their own. Amelia is a female Egyptologist in the late nineteenth century. Vicky is an art historian in sort-of fairly recent times. Both end up in thrilling adventures. Amelia picks up a crew of regular side-kicks along the way including, but not limited to a husband, a son, a faithful site foreman and an arch-nemesis and Vicky just keeps running into this gentleman thief-con artist type. Both remind me in some ways of a female Indiana Jones, but funnier.
And on top of all that, there’s Georgette Heyer, Janet Evanovich, Peter Wimsey and a few of my recent BotW picks that would serve the same purpose and cheer you up too – check out Little Shop of Lonely Hearts, The Rogue Not Taken, Sunset in Central Park and Fangirl. Also, if in doubt, read Georgette Heyer – start with Venetia or Regency Buck. Coming soon: Summer Holiday reading recommendations…
*In case you missed it I’m a journalist in real life.