While I was growing up, my mother and I had a special term for books that we read the same way as one would eat chocolate: as a treat, without any effort, immediately making you feel warm and fuzzy inside. We called these ‘sink-away’ books (in Dutch ‘wegzak boeken’) because they feel like sinking into a warm bath. They completely immerse you in another world, making you feel like you aren’t reading at all, but rather living a nice adventure with your fictional friends.
Having just completed one of these books on a long train journey up to my ‘childhood home’ and feeling slightly sentimental because I miss its main character already, I’ve started to wonder –
I don’t read much ‘adult chicklit’ or ‘light romances’ or whatever this is called (help!). I generally prefer books with several layers that have some kind of arty, ‘complexity of real life’ feel to them. (Snob alert :p.) These books intrigue me, inspire me, and fill me with wonderful new insights, but they never make me feel as cosy as a ‘sink-away’ book. As much literature as I have studied, it is just really nice to read about an uncomplicated world where people go on sunny adventures and live happily ever after.
The book I just finished is called Lydia, written by Natasha Farrant. It is a very funny, light, and surprisingly clever re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice from Lydia’s perspective, given to me for my birthday by two friends who appear to know me very well ;). I shan’t spoil the plot for you – if you enjoy the original, but also have an open mind for deliberately unconventional interpretations, I suggest you give it a read. It was lovely to be in that universe again and have such a warm-hearted, passionate, and head-strong companion by my side.
So why do I not read this kind of book all the time? To start, real ‘sink-away’ books are very personal and very rare. It isn’t often that a book hits exactly the right tone with me like that, and when it does, the book I adore might mean nothing to you. There is little way of knowing which book will have a warm-bath effect and which will be enjoyable-but-not-captivating or plain-old-boring. Moreover, putting more ‘effort’ into great works of literature does pay off. I worry that if I only read ‘easy’ books, I would ultimately feel unfulfilled. I need to alternate to appreciate (that would make one cheeky bumper-sticker).
What it is that makes cosy books so special? I still don’t know. The only thing we can do is reserve some space on our bookshelves to gather a short row of books on that never fail to amuse us, warm us, and cheer us up when we’re sad. What’s on yours?