Four feel-good books to snuggle up to when things get you down

Level 3 of lockdown has arrived in South Africa and for some of us that is very welcome news indeed, especially if you have been suffering from anxiety and depression due to this period of isolation.

The coping mechanisms I have come up with to give myself a mental hug during these times of lockdown and distant learning, are drinking too many cups of hazelnut-flavoured coffee, putting down my phone and avoiding the news when it gets a bit too much…and reading books that warm my heart.

Escapism at its finest

For me, comforting reads are historical fiction books that I have read before. Something about the nostalgia of these books and knowing the characters in the stories, makes it feel like you are transported to a different time and you are catching up with an old friend.

They are escapism at its finest. 

Whatever your preference with book genres, whether it be fantasy, biographies, or historical fiction, I suggest rereading your favourite books and enjoying them all over again.

Because, as I have already said, historical fiction is my genre of choice, I have compiled a list of my top four feel-good historical fiction books. Even if you aren’t a big fan of these sorts of books, give them a try for the lovable characters, the incredible writing and the heart-warming stories. 

Enjoy! xxx

‘The Dressmaker’ – by Rosalie Ham

Kate Winslet plays in the 2015 movie adaptation of Rosalie Ham’s ‘The Dressmaker’. Photo: Supplied

Set in 1950s rural Australia, Tilly Dunnage returns to her childhood hometown Dungatar, after being banished as a child under a cloud of accusation. Tilly, now a couturier for the Paris fashion houses, returns to try and make peace with her mentally unstable mother.

At first, she wins over the suspicious locals with her extraordinary dressmaking skills. But when the eccentric townsfolk turn on Tilly for a second time, she decides to teach them a lesson…

Packed with memorable characters, acid humour and luscious clothes, The Dressmaker, is an irresistible gothic tale of small-town revenge and has also been adapted into a movie with Kate Winslett and Chris Hemsworth’s brother, Liam.

‘Daisy Jones and the Six’ – by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Everyone knows Daisy Jones and The Six. Their albums were on every turntable, they sold out arenas from coast to coast, their sound defined an era.

And then, on 12 July 1979, they split. Nobody ever knew why. Until now…

The only thing that’s certain is that from the moment Daisy Jones walked — barefoot — on to the stage, the band were irrevocably changed…

This is the story of their incredible rise and fall. The ambition, the desire, the heartbreak, and the music. 

An upcoming Amazon Video series based on the eponymous book and produced by Reese Witherspoon is also in the pipeline. The miniseries is set to consist of 13 episodes.

‘Brooklyn’ – by Colm Tobin

This historical novel won the 2009 Costa Novel Award, was shortlisted for the 2011 International Dublin Literary Award and was longlisted for the 2009 Man Booker Prize. 

Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War 2. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in the United States (US), she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her beloved sister behind.

Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient love.

But just as Eilis begins to fall in love, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future. 

This is another book that has gone from page to screen with the same-titled 2015 romantic historical drame movie.

‘Little Island’ – by Andrea Levy 

Hortense Joseph arrives in London from Jamaica in 1948 with her life in her suitcase, her heart broken, her resolve intact.

Her husband, Gilbert Joseph, returns from the war expecting to be received as a hero, but finds his status as a black man in Britain to be second class.

His white landlady, Queenie, raised as a farmer’s daughter, befriends Gilbert, and later Hortense, with innocence and courage, until the unexpected arrival of her husband, Bernard, who returns from combat with issues of his own to resolve.

Told in these four voices, Small Island is a courageous novel of tender emotion and sparkling wit, of crossings taken and passages lost, of shattering compassion and of reckless optimism in the face of insurmountable barriers.

In short, an encapsulation of the immigrant’s life.

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