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What a luxury it is to revisit a favourite book! Comforting like slipping on a favourite jumper; but also fascinating because there are always new aspects to discover, and old ideas about the book to be challenged. 

For me, the only drawback is the list of books I love to reread keeps growing. . . But here are some of my current favourites, books that have sustained me, enchanted me, and soothed me. Just thinking about them makes me want to start them all over again!

- Cate Olson

A Far Cry from Kensington – Muriel Spark

This is still the only novel I ever finished (with a contented sigh), set down, and moments later picked up to start afresh. I still turn to it when I need some sensible romance; but it also offers some of the best writing about writing I’ve read.

Brat Farrar – Josephine Tey

Someone suggested this book to me long ago, perhaps because of teenage anglophile tendencies. What a lucky thing for me! Every time I reread it, I find subtle tones and sub textual nuances that escaped me before. If only Tey had written a sequel – I long to know more about almost everyone in the story, which features country life, horseback riding and the possibility of an assumed identity.

A Vicious Circle – Amanda Craig

I am attracted to any novel with a publishing milieu, and this offers many more pleasures than its acidic and entertaining portrait of lives spent earning a crust from putting words together. It seems Tollopian on two counts. Modern-day life is reflected in the behaviour of a fascinating cast, reflecting both their innate character and the particular pressures and influences of their time and place.  And because I cannot help but believe that Craig empathises with every one of them, embracing their flaws and weaknesses, making this a book with wonderful humanity.

Miss Mole – E.H. Young

This book was hiding in a box lot of volumes in an auction in Maine; for some reason I took it home, put it on a shelf and left it there for years. When I finally picked it up to read, it became at once a firm favourite and established E.H. Young in my personal pantheon of authors. It is replete with a sense of hope overcoming experience, but I respond more to its lessons in self-aware (but witty!)  acceptance of life’s vicissitudes, combined with the portrait of a knowing but still-kind heart. Plus, it offers one of the best Christmas scenes ever!

Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens

Nash read this aloud to me over three months, and with many discussions about our favourite plot developments and characters. I felt almost haunted by the story, and less than a year later indulged myself by revisiting it over a cold January. It is certainly my favourite Dickens novel (after, perhaps, A Christmas Carol), and one that more than rewards the commitment and time it takes to read. It is the last novel Dickens completed, and it is rich and wise and layered; I keep a copy nearby always, just for the comfort of dipping in and out.


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