In a new series with Dilli Grey muses, we asked fellow dress lover and book editor, Natasha Poliszczuk to share with us her favourite cosy reads to curl up with as the days darken... if you're looking for a book to gift, or lose yourself in - here are 6 of Natasha's top picks...
I am a fully signed up member of the autumn and winter fan club. Bring on the falling leaves, bare branches, any-excuse-for-a-hot-chocolate (or, indeed, a mulled wine), woolly jumpers and corduroy (the fabrics of my childhood and still good now), curling up by the fireside. As I write this, I am wearing corduroy, a fire is blazing, and a storm is raging outside... All of which makes it the perfect time to write of cosy books.
Starting with some suggestions from what I think of as the classic cosy canon. First up: Angela Thirkell’s nostalgic, completely delightful High Rising. Sensible, successful novelist Laura Morland and her chirpy young son Tony arrive at her country home in High Rising for Christmas. Laura extricates her friend George Knox from his scheming secretary, Laura’s diabolically grumpy cleaner stomps about, train-obsessed Tony chats obsessively and precociously, village life ebbs and flows. Nothing dramatic occurs but that is the point: like Laura herself, it’s as witty and charming as it is bracing.
I must also put in a word for two delicious offerings from Persephone. (If you don’t know about this publisher - discover it immediately) which reprints neglected, out of print books by women writers. Miss Buncle’s Book is about a woman who think life has passed her by – only to find, most gloriously, that it hasn’t. Barbara Buncle is a spinster in her (shock!) thirties who lives in a small, gossipy village. A woman of slender means, she writes a novel to supplement her meagre income – drawing inspiration from the local residents. The results are startling as life begins to imitate art. It is just the most charming, insightful, warm, and wise book.
Two Mitford-inspired books are new and very welcome additions to the fireside book category.
Firstly, India Knight’s reimagining of Nancy Mitford’s classic The Pursuit of Love. Like the original, Darling is a delicious hot bubble bath of a book – ideal for wallowing in. Knight transplants the Radletts to the wilds of the Norfolk Broads. Uncle Matthew is a retired rock-star who has an ever-expanding list of things he does not like. His brood is tumbling mass of brains and bohemianism, headed by beautiful, guileless Linda. Here, she becomes a model and social media star, but still falls for disastrous men until she meets her French paramour. It is chock-full of heart and humour.
No cosy collection is complete with a country house murder. The Mitford Secret is the final instalment in Jessica Fellowes’ Mitford Murders series. It’s and the country – and the Mitfords – are rocked by the war. Deborah gathers them at Chatsworth for a cheering festive knees-up. Amongst the invitees is their former maid turned friend and private detective, Louisa Cannon – which comes in handy when a murder is revealed. The whole series is a glittering, escapist delight.
If your idea of a cosy book is a sprawling family saga (a la the Cazalet Chronicles), then sink into Joanna Cannon’s The Whalebone Theatre. It follows the fortunes of the Seagrave siblings – Cristabel, Flossie and Digby – through nostalgic childhood interwar summers to rollicking wartime espionage escapades. Quinn creates a world so rich in detail, humanity and heart that you will lose yourself in its pages altogether.
Finally, a side-step into non-fiction. Katherine May’s beautiful memoir Wintering is a soothing meditative balm which ponders the idea of ‘wintering’ – both the season and in terms of a season in our lives. To read it is to be enfolded in a gentle, thoughtful embrace and it might just change the way you think about winter itself.
Natasha is wearing the new Vanessa cord shirt dress - details here
Natasha Poliszczuk is a journalist who has written for publications including The Times, The Telegraph, Glamour (where she was deputy editor), Vogue, and Elle. Most recently, she was Books Editor at YOU magazine. She's an obsessive bookworm and dress wearer - and can be found posting about both on Instagram @natashapoliszczuk. For more book recommendations, subscribe to her weekly newsletter Book(ish).