Continuing to embrace the comfort of reading our GEH Wellbeing Reading Group met virtually again last Thursday (coincidently World Book Day 🙂 ) to share our thoughts about our February book, The Comfort of Others by Kay Langdale.
February is a short month so we plumped for something a bit shorter than our recent choices. Most of the group found it an enjoyable, easy read which was realistic, uplifting and at times heart breaking. The storyline was predictable for some but we all felt the premise of the novel – the relationship between 11 year old Max and neighbour Minnie who is in her 70s – worked well in enabling the story to unfold. Several of us found we initially preferred Max’s narrative but grew to enjoy Minnie’s story as we discovered her tragic past.
Max was a popular character with most of the group albeit a little precocious for some. His narrative was full of witty observations some which made us laugh out loud and others that made you realise what it must be like for a young boy who had been the centre of his Mum’s universe to feel pushed out with the arrival of The Boyfriend . We loved how Tony’s name was only revealed towards the end of the book. Most of the group had an inkling Tony wasn’t as bad as the alpha male character Max describes, naturally from only his perspective, and that this was one of the most skilful parts of the story.
We had a great discussion of the role of mothering in the novel. Whilst the story steered you towards a negative impression there was empathy with both. We felt Minnie’s mum was a victim of her colonial past and her actions heavily influenced by class and society. By contrast we felt Max’s mum had done brilliantly as a single parent – having a successful business and a loving son.
We wondered how different Minnie and Clara’s lives would have been if their father hadn’t had died early and that we would have liked to have seen more from Clara’s perspective. We felt Clara was as much a victim as poor Minnie. Minnie’s tragedy was a difficult read and we felt for how it affected a once vibrant young woman.
The intergenerational relationship was everyone’s favourite feature of the book. We chatted about the importance of these relationships, between grandchildren and grandparents, children and aunts and uncles or family friends and the benefits they bring to all. We all felt that the relationship between Max and Minnie would continue despite Minnie and Clara moving away from the prison of Rosemount and mused that Max after Minnie’s training would one day appear on Antiques Roadshow! The relationship between Max and Minnie enabled them to reach out to each other, bringing comfort and perspective to them both.
We are wending our way north to Lancashire with our book for March with The Familiars by Stacey Halls, a novel of two women, set during the time of the Pendle Witch Trials. Read more here. Copies available to borrow from the Library (first come first served) and we will be meeting again on 1st April @12.30pm – as ever all welcome. Contact the Library to request a copy of the book or to receive a Teams invitation.