Comfort reads (needed now more than ever)

By Harriet Evans

By Harriet Evans

Some of these are classics, some are a bit more obscure. But all of them are books I turn to when I need taking out of the present situation by opening the pages of a book that I can just fall into. (Why? What's wrong with the present situation, I hear you ask. Everything's great! )

Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown

Anne Glenconner

£9.99 £9.29

I read this in one day last year when I was in bed with flu. It was perhaps my favourite day of the year despite feeling so rotten I could barely raise my head. That's all you need to know.

I Feel Bad About My Neck: Dolly Alderton introduction

Nora Ephron

£9.99 £9.29

There are so many different bits of this gorgeous book that stay with you. Blessed woman. As Meryl Streep* said when Nora Ephron died, we're so sorry you're gone, but we're so glad you were here. *Meryl Streep was one of her best friends, what else do you need to know?

The Pursuit of Love

Nancy Mitford

£8.99 £8.36

War, heartbreak, hunting animals to death, psychopathic parents and cold, cold houses... why is this book so very comforting? Because it's Nancy Mitford's world, and we just sink into it.

The Far Pavilions

M M Kaye

£14.99 £13.94

I read this whilst in labour and it is so absorbing it took my mind off it. OFF LABOUR. It is so richly detailed and plotted that you can't help but be sucked in. I adore it. A proper old-fashioned saga.

Excellent Women

Barbara Pym

£8.99 £8.36

Yes this book is clever and witty and super well done, but it also has a touch of hysteria and surreality about it that I love. Barbara Pym books should be left at bus stops for people to pick up. She's just the ticket.

I Capture the Castle

Dodie Smith

£7.99 £7.43

Along with The Pursuit of Love this is a cliched comfort read but if you haven't read it I envy you so much. It is unexpected in places and surprisingly raw, and has the darkest ending in any book like it. Gorgeous. That's all.

The Girls Of Slender Means

Muriel Spark

£8.99 £8.36

The plotting, the details, the edginess, the sense of time and place make this wonderful novel such a pleasure. Like Pym, and like I Capture the Castle, it is packaged as fluffy, along with so much fiction by woman, and is anything but, but hugely comforting at the same time.

The Light Years

Elizabeth Jane Howard

£9.99 £9.29

The Cazalet Chronicles are everything. If I could be doing anything right now I'd be reading them. If there was any justice in the world EJH would be posthumously awarded every prize going. Even the Oscar. Richly, deeply enjoyable, because the characters are so utterly real and the sense of time and place is amazing.

Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life

Nina Stibbe

£8.99 £8.36

These lovely letters from a nanny in 80s Primrose Hill to her sister are so enjoyable and funny, I keep them by my bed to pick up and peruse for a lift.

The Lady in the Van

Alan Bennett

£6.99 £6.50

Such a little book but it's a nice companion to the one above and that thing about Alan Bennett that he is seen as comfortable which often gets in the way of how acutely perceptive he is on people and life.

The Shell Seekers

Rosamunde Pilcher

£9.99 £9.29

We should all be more like Penelope Keeling, the ageing heroine of Pilcher's most successful novel. This is one of those big old curl up and get stuck in books that I can reread and find something to enjoy anew every time.

Period Piece: A Cambridge Childhood

Gwen Raverat

£9.99 £9.29

I ordered the beautiful Slightly Foxed hardback edition of this perfect little gem of a memoir for my Christmas present and really it's all I've needed to see me through these first ghastly days of 2021. She was Charles Darwin's granddaughter & this account of her childhood in Cambridge with her eccentric, intellectual family is sheer joy. Go on and treat yourself, too.