I hope you guys had a great weekend. If it was anything like mine, it was busy busy busy. My students are beginning a big research project and had an annotated bibliography due. I had a rush editing job. There was church to be attended with the fam. And massive quantities of food to be eaten yesterday. All that to say, by yesterday evening, I was exhausted. Like, in bed at 8 p.m. exhausted, but I gave up sweets for Lent, which WHOA. So I think having dessert and eating meat (which I normally do only rarely) made for a not-so-happy stomach.
I grabbed Ian Rankin’s latest book, The Impossible Dead, and read for hours. My history with Ian Rankin: I adore his writing. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but when I finished my Master’s thesis and didn’t want to write anything ever again (fail: I started this blog), I turned to Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series….and promptly fell in love. In fact, Rebus probably deserves his own “Series Obsession” post. That summer after graduation, I read every Rebus novel and probably not much else.
Rankin ended the Rebus series in the last novel of the series Exit Music, and I was kind of devastated. Ok, a lot devastated. So when Rankin wrote The Complaints a couple of years ago, I knew I would pick it up but was determined I wouldn’t love it. I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t even review it because it just. wasn’t. the same. But that isn’t Rankin’s fault. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to follow up such a well-loved series. So, last night. The Impossible Dead. It’s a sequel to The Complaints, and I was glad to come home to Rankin. So happy I stayed up most of the night to read it, start to finish.
What struck me, after this long, long, long-winded introduction was Rankin’s ability to pull me in to his narrative and make me feel at home. It’s not even something I think I can articulate all that well. The prose is clean and clear but without bells and whistles, but there is an elegance to the writing and to the characters that I love.
Because this is a new series, I know it isn’t the characters that feel so familiar, though. Unlike the Miss Silver series by Patricia Wentworth, it isn’t the promise of the same names coming up. Rankin is also not formulaic, and I don’t want to imply that by saying “comfort.” Mac and cheese is a comfort food, but I don’t really go in for the Kraft Mac & Cheese. Homemade, though, I’ll take any day.
So what are the characteristics of a comfort read:
- Familiarity – this might be the writing, the characters, the author, the setting, or the genre.
- Engagement – even if it’s your absolute favorite author, if it isn’t engaging, it won’t work
And I kind of think, for me, those are the only two qualities I’m looking for. What do you think? Are there additional requirements for a comfort read? And what are the books you turn to for comfort?