My thanks first of all to Llainy from So Many Books So Little Time who gave me a spare copy of this book. The Comfort of Others was a wonderful start to my #20BooksOfSummer challenge. There are two stories within the book. One strand is about Minnie and her sister Clara, two elderly sisters who live a large dilapidated house once surrounded by extensive grounds but now surrounded by a housing scheme. Young Max lives opposite them with his mum who has just begun a new relationship, changing their previously close relationship. The sisters have guarded a secret all their lives, a secret hidden within the estate. Throughout one summer, Max begins to record his feelings about the changes in his life on a dictaphone while Minnie writes a diary about what happened all those years ago.
I loved reading both parts of this book. The author has created characters I think you can’t help but have empathy for. Max and his mum have been so close with their little routines and although I could understand that his mum was swept up in the excitement of her new relationship, I was exasperated that she didn’t seem to be taking Max’s feelings into account. Max was clearly a sensitive boy who didn’t quite have the courage to make his voice heard. Recording his thoughts was his way of expressing himself.
My heart went out to Minnie. Her entire life had been shadowed by the guilt and shame she felt about an incident which took place when she was only 16. She was an intelligent and spirited girl at a time when that wasn’t particularly valued, especially by her mother. Circumstances put her in a very difficult position and her strong willed mother made choices which made Minnie and her sister isolated really for the rest of their lives. She also has been unable to talk about what happened and writing in her diary helps her begin to express her feelings.
The unlikely friendship between young Max and elderly Minnie helped them both find the courage to finally face up to the difficult situations in their lives. They provide comfort and courage for each other in this heart-warming book which is not without its share of sorrow. The Comfort of Others is a compelling read which is full of warmth, compassion and hope.
The Comfort of Others was published in paperback on 2 June by Hodder & Stoughton. You can buy a copy in all good bookshops or order a copy online here: The Comfort of Others
From the back of the book
Minnie and her sister Clara, spinsters both, live in a dilapidated country house in the middle of a housing estate, built when their father sold off the family’s land. Now in their seventies, their days follow a well-established routine: long gone are the garden parties, the tennis lessons and their suffocatingly strict mother. Gone, too, is any mention of what happened when Minnie was sixteen, and the secret the family buried in the grounds of their estate.
Directly opposite them lives Max, an 11-year-old whose life with his mum has changed beyond recognition since her new boyfriend arrived. Cast aside, he takes solace in Minnie’s careful routine, observed through his bedroom window.
Over the course of the summer, both begin to tell their stories: Max through a Dictaphone, Minnie through a diary. As their tales intertwine, ghosts are put to rest and challenges faced, in a story that is as dark as it is uplifting.