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Monday, December 6, 2010

Comfort and Joy by India Knight

First of all, a small disclaimer. The wonderful India Knight is not a stranger to me.

We inhabit the same milieu, have a million mutual pals and have come to be, largely over the marvel that is Twitter, friends.

We haven’t been to each other’s houses, which is my definition of a proper friend, but I’m sure we will.

Meanwhile, we would hack our way across a cocktail party to greet each other and I was invited to the glorious launch of this book.

But let’s be quite clear, none of the matey matey stuff has any impact on what I say here. I love this book quite separately from liking its author.

In fact, I have such a girl crush on India’s writing, they are pretty much divided into two people in my head, or I would be too shy to speak to her. India my hilarious Twitter pal and India the amazing writer.

So, to the book. It’s not like her first two novels at all. I loved them both – hilarious romps – this is much more measured. I’m sure India wouldn’t mind me saying it doesn’t have a gasp-making cliff hanger plot. It hardly has a plot at all, but it is an immensely satisfying read.

I’d say it is more in the style of my favourite of her books until this one, The Shops, than the novels. That was an immensely elegant book about that art of shopping, this is a novel about the complex emotional landscape of a modern family, told over three Christmases, but the tone is similar. Sophisticated, yet earthy and real.

You live every emotional moment of it with the main character, Clara, as she observes and analyses the patchwork of ex-husbands and inlaws, half sisters, immediate family, friends, waifs and strays, who make up her Christmas landscape. And at the end, you shed a poignant tear.

It is, with great humour and style, an uncompromising appraisal of the ongoing emotional cost of modern marriage – and breaks up – to all involved.

But in the end it is a glorious Christmas carol to the wonderful gift that is family, be they ever so dysfunctional.

A comfort and joy, indeed.

Reading satisfaction: 8
Un-put-downable-ness: 8
Recommend to best girlfriend: 10
Recommend to mother: 10
Recommend to niece: 10
Recommend to gay best friend: 10
Recommend to man pal: 9
Recommend to Helen Razer: 9
Read on public transport: 10
Unpleasantness: 0


  1. This sounds like a book for me. I laughed so much reading 'Don't you want Me?'. I was on holiday and stretched out on a lounger near the pool - I was shaking with mirth, tears rolling down my face. I am sure people thought I was crazy. Love all that she has written and can't wait to devour this book. Thanks for the review and I am really enjoying your style notes each week now that I am NOT buying the Saturday paper for the GW magazine!! X

  2. I downloaded this to the marvel that is Kindle a week ago and love it. Not finished yet.

    After My Last Duchess which I also liked - esp the American looking for an aristo bit (there was a real magazine that told people who was free apparently), and the wonderful mother who goes up in flames.

    I laughed a great deal at IK's other two books and recommended one of them to someone whose husband had left her. It apparently kept her laughing, kept her sane and he came back.

    I liked Thrift and Shopping too. Took the latter to heart, and tried sooo hard to do the same for the former but simply can't stick to Borax in the dishwasher.

  3. I am about to start this book. I am so glad I found your blog, I used to read your column in the smh all the time when I lived in Sydney and have your books and love your writing and style etc. Love your book reviews. Did you buy the 3g kindle or the normal one by the way?

  4. I'm gonna order this one right now. I know Christmas stuff isn't a genre per se, but I always seek it out. What a gorgeous cover, too.

  5. Love love this book, laughed out loud anywhere I read it! Love India Knight, in particular the shops. Have now bought the book for all my friends.