The idea behind the Classic Comfort posts is that each featured writer chooses a favourite title from the classics – we’ll define ‘classic’ as pre-1940 – and a favourite comfort read, a book they always return to, for whatever reasons. As third book in each post, we’ll have one by the writer.
This week, we have Polly Heron, aka Susanna Bavin, who writes lovely saga fiction. Many of her books are set around the time when my grandmother was a girl, and it’s so interesting reading about what life might have been like then. Over to Polly!
Short story collections from the 1920s and 1930s
I have always been a reader of short stories. In particular I love the collections that were put together in 1930s, with titles such as The Mammoth Book of Thrillers, Ghosts and Mysteries and A Century of Humour, which was one of a series of A Century of… books. What better way to be introduced to writers such as Wilkie Collins, Guy de Maupassant, O Henry and W W Jacobs? My first taste of G K Chesterton was the wonderfully funny The Tremendous Adventures of Major Brown, which I re-read regularly. The Mammoth Book mentioned above even contained a ‘sealed section’ at the end, with stories to make you ‘glance over your shoulder and perhaps even start when there is a creak on the stair.’
Cosy crime plus Christmas – what more could you possibly want?! I read this book every couple of years in the run-up to Christmas and the fact that I know it inside out (including, of course, whodunnit) doesn’t stop me loving it every time. It’s all the Christmassy stuff that I love, as Susan, an American housewife and mum, does all the cooking, baking and decorating at the same time as solving the crime. The family dynamics are beautifully realised and I’m a sucker for all those Christmas preparations.
Thank you, Polly! Christmas with the Surplus Girls was released earlier this month, so I haven’t read it yet, but I’m sure it’ll be a lovely read like the other two! Here’s the blurb:
After the sorrows of war, can Christmas wishes come true?
Manchester, 1922: Nancy Pike is out of her depth at Miss Hesketh’s school for surplus girls, blundering through her lessons and her job placements. Her only joy is getting to know the children at St Anthony’s orphanage. And working for Mr Zachary Milner twice a week.
Alone in the world since the death of his brother, Nancy’s presence has brought a little sunshine back into Zachary’s life. But when she makes a terrible mistake that puts his livelihood in jeopardy, he has no choice but to let her go.
As she battles the prejudices around her, and her own fear, Nancy is determined to bring some Christmas cheer to the orphanage – and maybe even to Zachary Milner…
The third in a quartet of sagas set during the early 1920s, following four Surplus Girls – those women whose dreams of marriage perished in the Great War, after the deaths of millions of young men – and the new lives they forged for themselves.
Polly Heron lives on the beautiful North Wales coast with her husband and their two rescue cats. She is originally from Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Manchester, where her family has lived for several generations and which provides the setting for her family sagas. She also writes as Susanna Bavin.
You can find out more about Polly on her website and on Twitter.
Next month, we’re having Terri Nixon, who writes women’s fiction and crime fiction, and her choice of books.