Friday book review – Comfort and Joy by India Knight

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Friday 18th November 2011

I’m a huge fan of India Knight. She’s wise, fun and talks more sense in her Sunday Times column than most other journalists put together. In short, she sounds like the sort of best friend we’d all like to have. If that wasn’t enough, I opened the December issue of Red magazine to find that her house boasts joyous pink walls (she says they’re “really cheering on a January morning”), huge amounts of clutter and an amazing personalised mural drawn by artist Charlotte Mann with black marker pen. She likes “books, colour and over-decoration” and, asked what she’d save in a fire, reckons she wouldn’t save anything, apart from people and her laptop. “I don’t think it would really make much difference if you had your favourite teapot or cushion,” she says. “You’d just have to start again.” It’s for all those reasons that I knew I’d love her Christmas novel, Comfort and Joy. Out in paperback this month, it perfectly captures the chaos of a family Christmas. Knight admits that the book is “fairly autobiographical,” with lots of “mashed-up memories and experiences,” but I reckon it’s all the better for that. Comfort and Joy is the story of a modern family Christmas hosted by mother-of-three Clara Dunphy over three consecutive festive seasons. Like most women I know, Clara is determined to make Christmas special. As she says, “I want it to be so lovely, so redemptive, so right. There’s no point in doing it craply, is there?” But even so, it’s a tricky feat to pull off when she’s got 16 guests turning up and is doing everything single-handed. Sitting round her London table each year are her ex-husband, her about to be ex-husband, three children, eccentric mother, two half-sisters, her non-PC mother-in-law and a host of well-behaved and not so well-behaved friends. Knight is brilliant at blending laugh-out-loud humour with real insight into the stresses and strains of a family Christmas. You’ll love her third novel if you’re hosting Christmas at your place this year (though it might make you want to book a one-way ticket to the other side of the planet) – and even if you’re not. Comfort and Joy by India Knight (Penguin, £7.99)

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