Monday, February 01, 2010

Comfort Books

The Gauthiers suffered through a rough half year, and things were particularly bad since the middle of November. One day last fall I was supposed to just leave some books off at the library and then race out of the building because I had so many things I needed to do related to sick family members. But I stayed to hunt for something that would divert me from the reality of my life. A book. Preferably part of a series so that I could read and read and stay plenty diverted.

I found nada that day, but later in the year I was in another library where I stumbled upon the second volume of The Chronicles of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones. I'll be discussing the Chrestomanci series in a later post, but for now it's enough to say that I found my diversion.

I bought Volume I of The Chronicles because I had to have it right away. The Pinhoe Egg is part of this series, and even though I'd read it before, with mixed feelings, I read it again. I read a book of short stories about Chrestomanci. I bought Volume III, even though by that point I'd read one of the two books it contains.

In fact, I bought everything Chrestomanci, whether I'd just read library editions or not, because I was afraid that some day I would need them again, and what if I couldn't get them because they were out of print? What if some day I wanted to give them to someone?

Last week, when things went from bad to worse here, I picked up one of the books, just a couple of months after having finished it, and started reading it again. Okay, it wasn't quite the escape it was the first time, but there was nothing else in the house that was better. I went to the library today and picked up a few things, but if they don't do it for me, I'll stick with Chrestomanci.

Chrestomanci is a figure in a magical world whose function is to control magic. He comes when people call him, and he fixes things. (Though I'll have more to say about that another time.) You don't have to be the psychological equivalent of a rocket scientist to see why someone experiencing bad times would be attracted to him.

We had a family member reading multiple volumes of Fox Trot last week. Another recalled during an earlier loss reading issue after issue of National Geographic. Clearly, when it comes to comfort, each goes his or her own way.

Feel free to suggest your favorite comfort book.

7 comments:

Lisa Nowak said...

I love, love, love Diana Wynne Jones! Don't overlook her other novels. I read Dogsbody when I was in 7th grade, back in the late '70s, and I've read it many times since. Makes me cry like a baby. Jones has such a wonderful way of taking a situation which seems terrible and giving it a twist so it's wonderful in the end.

Libby said...

I love the Chrestomanci books as well. I also love Howl's Moving Castle (maybe my favorite of her books). If you haven't read Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching books (Wee Free Men, Hat Full of Sky, and Wintersmith) that's another series you might enjoy. Noel Streatfeild's Shoes books (and my favorite, The Painted Garden, aka Movie Shoes) might be some of my favorite comfort reading, though, after Jane Austen and George Eliot.

tanita davis said...

Aren't those books the best -- the ones you just pick up and think, "Okay, distract me."

Love that. I adore the Chrestomanci series; D. even read them. I second the suggestion that you read Terry Pratchett -- if you've not read Nation or Monstrous Regiment you will be so very taken with them both. Very different, but wonderful.

gail said...

I loved Monstrous Regiment. Nation was definitely good in an elevated sort of way, but for deep down enjoyment, I probably liked Monstrous Regiment better. I've read at least two of the Tiffany Aching books, and, as luck would have it, I picked up Thud at the library yesterday.

Bibliovore said...

Whenever someone close to me dies, I re-read A Ring of Endless Light. You'd think that would be the last book I'd want to read when that happens, but it's weirdly comforting.

Miriam said...

I'm coming late to the party, but just wanted to say that I get a kick out of the Tiffany Aching books (I thought the first one lost its way a bit at the end, but loved the rest of it). Diana Wynne Jones doesn't knock my socks off, but I did like the one Chrestomanci book I read a few years ago. But if we're talking comfort books, Anne of Green Gables and Understood Betsy did it for me for years, as did Madeleine L'Engle. I don't go back and reread books as much these days, so if I need a comfort book, I usually try something along the lines of a Fannie Flagg book. The troubles her characters face are real, but there's warmth and humor surrounding them.

gail said...

Miriam--I'm late to almost every party I go to.

Oddly enough, I just picked up a Fannie Flagg book today to bring to my mother. I believe she liked one of her books in the past--I hope it wasn't this one.