“Is The Kite Runner good?” I asked Amy while perusing her bookshelf for something to read.
“Oh, you haven’t read it yet? You should read it!”
So I read it, and it fell vaguely short of my expectations. Which was somewhat of a feat, as I had very few expectations going into it. I guess I just expected to enjoy reading it more than I did.
Then I picked up A Tangled Web, by L.M. Montgomery, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Something in my soul filled up, making me feel beautiful and happy and content and thoughtful.
So then, of course, having read two books in a relatively short span of time, I had to compare them. I had to know why I preferred one over the other so strongly.
Some of the difference was actual quantifiable things that made one book better that the other. Hosseini wrote pages and pages about flat characters who only had one trait. “The sweet supportive wife.” “The kind, selfless friend.” “The evil sadistic villain.”
Montgomery, on the other hand, wrote characters that were only mentioned once in the entire book, but had distinctive and unique personalities. And she laughed when cousin Hannah from Summerside asked her if it could be true that she was going to marry “a certain young man.” Cousin Hannah would not say “a Gibson.” Her manner gave the impression that Gibsons did not really exist. They might imagine they did but they were mere emanations of the Evil One, to be resolutely disbelieved in by anyone of good principles and proper breeding. One did not speak openly of the devil. Neither did one speak of the Gibsons.
But all technicalities of good writing aside, I discovered that an essential characteristic of the books I love, deep in my soul is coziness, abundantly present in all of Montgomery’s books, but not so much in Hosseini’s. This is also a difference I’ve noticed between British and American fantasy. Almost all my favorite fantasy writers were British, and they tended to infuse their books with coziness. Even a fantasy epic like The Lord of the Rings had these incredibly cozy descriptions of eating second breakfast in Bag End.
My three favorite cozy books are Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, and The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery.
I think of them as my castle trilogy, as they all three have the word “castle” in the title. At first this seemed a grand coincidence. But later I reflected that books with “castle” in the title usually have a strong sense of place, as the castle is so present in the books that it is almost a character itself. And there is something very very cozy about books with a strong sense of place.
My friend Esta later mused that maybe it’s an introvert thing to be so drawn to cozy books, because we want this strong familiar sense of place to retreat to.
That was kind-of a round-about ramble, but all that to say I’ve been craving cozy books lately, and if you have recommendations for cozy books with a strong sense of place I would love to hear about them!
The coziest book I’ve read recently that wasn’t a re-read was Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley.