So many cultural icons have died (David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, Alan Rickman, Prince, Leonard Cohen et al), the gulf between the super-rich and the rest of us has got ever wider, migrants and refugees are drowning in ever-greater numbers as they cross the Mediterranean, the war in Syria has got worse, post-truth politics has gripped the west and I dare not mention Brexit or the fact that Donald Trump has been elected as the next President of the United States.
So, in these rather dark and troubling times it’s refreshing to be able to escape into a good book. While my literary tastes are relatively dark, every now and then I read a novel that could best be described as happy or uplifting.
Here’s a list of some of my favourite novels that put the human race in a positive light and show the redemptive power of kindness, generosity of spirit, tolerance and benevolence. The books have been arranged in alphabetical order by author’s name — click the title to see my full review:
‘Lost & Found’ by Brooke Davis (2015)
A rather delightful story about a young girl who loses her mother in a department store and then goes on a long cross-country adventure with two elderly people to find her. It’s quirky but big-hearted, and the way it explores the twin themes of loneliness and grief without being schmaltzy or sentimental makes it a fun and rewarding read.
‘Plainsong’ by Kent Haruf (1999)
This is a beautiful, sincere story about a wide cast of characters leading complicated, messy lives. By examining the ties that bind people and communities together, it shows that our lives are made all the richer by putting others before ourselves. My favourite read in 2014; nothing’s really surpassed it since.
‘Miss Garnet’s Angel’ by Salley Vickers (2005)
Set largely in Venice with a lonely spinster at its heart, this is an inspirational story about second chances and living life to the full when you’ve always lived life in the shadows. Art, religion and grief combine to show that emotions — and our ability to express and experience them — are what makes us truly human.
‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’ by Winifred Watson (1938)
An enchanting mid-century take on Cinderella, this book is another one about second chances and the fact that you are never too old, too poor or from the wrong class to pursue them.
‘The Rosie Project’ by Graeme Simsion (2013)
This unconventional story about an unconventional man looking for love is a charming read about being yourself and never giving up on your dreams. It’s often laugh out loud funny, too.
Have you read any of these books? Or can you recommend other happy and uplifting reads?