I seem to be surrounded at the moment with friends and raletions (deliberate typo – apologies to A A Milne) who are suffering from some kind of annoying and uncomfortable, though far from life-threatening, ailment or condition. When I’m in a similar state myself (which doesn’t happen often; I put it down to a healthy immune system bred by a more relaxed attitude to domestic hygiene in the far distant days of my childhood. Though I fervently hope that doesn’t prove to be famous last words – we’re going on holiday next month), once I’m past the stage where all I want to do is hide under the duvet and sleep, but still lack the energy to get up and do stuff, I find reading to be a great comfort.
It has to be a particular kind of book. It mustn’t make heavy demands on the thought processes, because when your brain hurts you don’t want to give it any more to do than is absolutely necessary. It needs to raise the occasional smile, though maybe not a full-on belly laugh, because when your body’s limp and aching you want to cheer it up, not tax it. If we’re talking about crime fiction, and I expect we are, since that’s the primary theme of this blog as well as my reading matter of choice, it should maybe be the kind that doesn’t linger on the blood and gore, because that is likely to have an adverse effect on tender stomachs. And sometimes, though not always, it needs to be familiar, because old friends are usually much less like hard work than new ones, and hard work is the last thing you want when you’re feeling below par.
Crime fiction may not immediately spring to mind as ideal comfort reading, especially if you’re the kind of person who reads it primarily in order to put the clues together, and work out the puzzle before the sleuth gets there. But sometimes it can just hit the spot. Certain examples of it can certainly fulfil the above criteria, and it’s not compulsory to try to work out whodunit ahead of the protagonist; sometimes it’s OK just to go along for the ride and enjoy the characters.
So what reading matter should I recommend to my slightly ailing friends and family? Individual taste and preference takes care of a lot, of course, but I’m known as a prolific and eclectic reader, and that reputation extends to the concept of reading as a form of entertainment rather than edification and the good of the soul, so it’s not impossible I’ll be asked for suggestions.
Let me think. Not too heavy, the occasional smile, not too much blood and gore, old friends... Remind you of anyone’s work, blog followers? To me that description sounds remarkably like your friend and mine, E J Copperman. Possibly a little more familiar to us aficionados than to the general populace, but I defy anyone not to make friends very quickly with Alison Kerby and her merry crew, ghostly and otherwise. There’s more than the occasional smile in there; I haven’t read a single one in the series without a near-permanent smile on my face, but that’s all to the good.
E J has written enough to cover the first few days of the convalescent period. For the next few, when you’re starting to feel better, how about Elly Griffiths? Her lovely forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway is someone else it’s easy to make friends with, and while Ruth deals in bones, they’re generally old ones, which are well past the yuck! factor. Elly’s new series, of which I’m told the second will be out shortly, set in 1950s Brighton theatreland, has a similar easy-to-connect-with tone as well.
And finally, if the not-too-well person is into history, there’s Ruth Downie’s delicious Ruso series, set in Roman Britain. Ruso himself is a friendly and approachable soul, and though Tilla the slave girl who becomes his wife can be a tad spiky, their sparky relationship makes me smile quite a lot.
That little list should see most people through the kind of recovery period that stops you getting on with real life, though I don’t guarantee recovery will be hastened. It might even be extended, as a way of making time to finish a series or two. (Or three...)
Alternatively – any suggestions? I may need them myself if that immune system lets me down, and I’ve read everything on the list.