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Novels to Snack On

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Novels to snack on

It was a damp and dreary Christmas day in Parry Sound, but I already had a plan of how to spend my day – a plan that did not depend on the weather. We had already celebrated the holiday season with our family a few weeks earlier, so Christmas day was a day with just the old folks at home. Months ago I selected two books from the fall new releases and set them aside to read on Christmas day. They are most recent books in two series that I have followed for many years – and discovered that in spite of their having no literary merit whatsoever they are fun to read and I’m certainly far from alone in enjoying them. Some readers would call them “brain candy”, I think of them as TV reading – sort of soap opera novels. They are as comfortable as a favourite pair of old jeans – not designer wear; the book equivalent of comfort food – sort of mashed potatoes. Perfect for a day of pure rest and relaxation, on the couch in front of the fireplace, and if I take a nap along the way it wouldn’t matter.

I began with A Quilter’s Holiday by Jennifer Chiaverini. I’m glad it was the first because, although it is a small book and I thought it would be a quick read, there was more to it than I expected. As always in her novels Jennifer Chiaverini weaves into her novel some serious topics – underneath the soap opera surface of her story, all the little worries and nuisances pale when we face death, disease and estrangements, as do some of the women in this novel. We meet again the women who founded Elm Creek Quilts, we catch up on their live since the last novel, and we get to know some of the newer characters a little better. Relationships between family members and friends change and develop, as quilts are created and completed. (I can just hear the TV “And So Are the Days of our Lives”). Some characters stories end happily ever after and some do not. In the end you feel that you have spent the hours with long time friends, even if you have never left the couch.

And while I had a cup of tea with cookies with the Elm Creek Quilters, by the time I picked up my second novel There Goes the Bride, an Agatha Raisin Mystery, by M.C. Beaton I was ready for a glass of wine. Agatha wouldn’t have minded if I’d had a stiff gin & tonic. This novel tastes just like the big piece of wedding cake on the cover – guilty but delicious.

When I first started reading the Agatha Raisin series she was an older woman and had retired to the Cotswolds. I discovered with this novel that I am now several years older than she is, and reading her humourous observances about aging are no longer quite so funny! But this is still a very funny book in spite of numerous murders, as are all of the books in this series. When a new Agatha Raisin novel is released I set it aside, and save it for a day when I am in need of comic relief. Agatha Raisin is the perfect antidote to real life – she provides a lighthearted break from the reality and it is comforting to know she is out there. She is irreverent and cranky, she enjoys a drink and while the rest of us gave up smoking years ago – not Agatha! Underneath it all she has a heart of gold and we do care about her welfare. Agatha was once married, but that was some time ago, and she is lonely – and it is Christmas time. “She did not want to be alone. She conjured up a vision of a tall handsome man who owned a pleasant country mansion with dogs and wood fires. They would go for long walks and return in the evening to a companionable dinner. And then later, they would walk up the stairs to the master bedroom hand in hand, and he would say….” . At this point Agatha is rudely awakened from her day dream to get on with her day and real life adventures that unfortunately do not include suitable men.

And the day is over – I’ve spent it snacking – cookies and tea, potato chips and wine, as I’ve read about the sweet and the salty lives of the Elm Creek Quilters and Agatha Raisin – little books that, like life, don’t have to be perfect to be fun.

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