What a heart-warming and totally fun read. Comfort and Joy is about Christmas and the illusion of the ‘perfect day’ questioning why most families go a bit loopy around that time of year. And loopy is the order of the day with a crazy cast of characters guaranteed to the last page to make you laugh, cry and everything in between. This is a very gripping, entertaining book you won’t want to put down that I actually read in one sitting. So good, I read paragraphs of it aloud, the second time round, to my husband.
The novel is in three parts, each part starting on Christmas over a three-year period from 2009-2011. We first meet Clara Dunphy rushing madly to complete the last of her Christmas shopping on London’s busy Oxford Street. She loves Christmas and goes the whole nine yards to make sure that each of her sixteen guests shall receive the perfect present. Only three pages into the book and you just know you’re going to love Clara and that there is a bit of her in all of us. Shopping over, she decides to take some ‘me-time’, an expression that absolutely ‘makes her gag’ hitting the Connaught Hotel and getting a bit more than she bargained for.
The book dissects the ever changing dynamics of relationships. Kate, my absolute favourite character calls it as it is; Sometimes ‘water is just thicker than blood’ and that family eventually is all about the love that glues it together wherever that glue comes from. Herself a serial wife, she should know a thing or two. She is the extension of yummy mummy to yummy granny (although woe to any of a grandchild who calls her that) and as such is quirky, generous, insightful, lovable and cut-throat honest. She is balanced out by Pat, Clara’s mother-in-law, the conservative granny type with hilarious outbursts.
Comfort and Joy offers up a diverse cast of very identifiable, current and believable characters. Sophie and Tim who make a brief appearance at the beginning of the novel will strike a chord with parents who have to deal with the colour pink, eating what you grow and calling a salad ‘leaves’. Another is Tamsin, the primary school teacher and Clara’s best friend dating a much older Jake. Their girlie chatter mostly concerning ‘Mr Penis’ will have you roaring with laughter. Hope; rich, melodramatic and ‘aggressively on the hunt of the father of her child who will also be her bridegroom” and who is hooked on Facebook.
This book is seriously funny. Not only is it packed with many laugh-out-loud moments but it is also witty and insightful. It’s all there: Christmas Day mania at its best with a thing or two on ‘vampire friends’ and taking a dump at other people’s houses. It left me surprisingly looking forward to Christmas this year, a bit envious of Clara’s family and that it’s OK not to have all the answers at forty.
Special Note: Today The Guardian had this book in its digested read section with a disclaimer that you shouldn't read this if you receive this book for Christmas present. This digested read is so funny and kick-ass and I just had to give it a mention here. To read The Guardian digested read on Comfort and Joy, click here.