I can't remember where I first learned of the Miss Read books, though I do remember that it was the spring of 2006 and I bought a few of the novels as a birthday gift for my ex. Miss Read writes about two cozy villages in rural England and I knew the books would please her so I picked out a few, thinking they would be something we would enjoy together. She hit the road before she read the books, and in packing up her things she didn't take them. By default, the books became mine.
For the first few months, their mere presence in my home was a painful reminder of how my world had suddenly exploded into misery. So I tucked the books away. But I didn't forget about them, because the premise of the stories appealed to me. Over the course of nearly 40 years of writing, Miss Read (in actuality a retired English school mistress by the name of Dora Saint), wrote countless stories. Totaling more than 40 novels, most of them taking place in the imaginary world of Thrush Green, a town in the Cotswolds, and Fairacre, a town on the edge of the downs, they are stories of daily life. The narrator offers plenty of commentary; occasionally those comments are a tad biting, but in a mannered English style that reminds me of Jane Austen.
I picked up the first book, Thrush Green, on one of my many sleepless nights in the summer of 2006. And, as I read the story, for the first time in more than two miserable months, I was distracted from my own overwhelming unhappiness. I felt a bit like Alice, falling into my own private warren, this one an ordinary place populated by ordinary people. But oh, the charm of that ordinary .....every time I opened one of her books, Miss Read succeeded in taking me to a place outside my own sadness.
The towns are populated by a cast of quirky and engaging characters, figures so well-illustrated that I've come to feel that they are utterly real. I admire Miss Clare and I'm amused by the Lovelock sisters. I know my share of Mrs. Pringle-types, and can laugh at them a bit more easily now. I'd like to enjoy a cup of tea with Miss Read (we'd grab one in Caxley, after we did some shopping) and I dearly wish that Mr. Willet would come and give me some advice about my garden. I admire Charles Henstock's good-humored grace and kindness, I'd like to replicate some of Nelly Piggot's cakes from The Fuschia Bush.
In short, I love these books and their happily ordinary population. There are so many Miss Read books that I made plans to stretch out the satisfaction. This fall, I'm reading the last of the collection for the first time. But as I know from previous re-reads of many of her books, the comfort of her world is just as happy on the second reading.
We're heading into some cold weather and that's the perfect time pick up one of these cozy books. Here's the link to the many Miss Read titles available on-line at Borders. I recommend them all. Seriously; every one is lovely. Grab your favorite warm cardigan and make yourself a pot of tea. And settle in for a most happy read.