Sometimes friendship springs from where you least expect it.
Minnie has always lived with her sister Clara in her family’s beautiful, grand, yet increasingly dilapidated house Rosemount. Now in her seventies, she finds herself looking back to a life that has been shrouded with sorrow, and a painful secret that she has guarded since her teens.
Eleven-year-old Max, who lives opposite Minnie on the housing estate built in Rosemount’s grounds, has grown up happily with his single mother. But his mum has begun a new relationship and suddenly life is starting to change.
As each of them tell their stories, she via a resurrected childhood journal, him via a Dictaphone, they spot each other through their bedroom windows and slowly and hesitantly an unlikely friendship begins to form.
A friendship that might just help Max come to terms with the present and enable Minnie, finally, to lay to rest the ghosts of her past…
Max and Millie are perhaps two of the most unlikely candidates for striking up a friendship. Eleven year old Max is a sensitive and quiet soul who has been brought up by his mother after never knowing the identity of his father. Max is ok with it being just the two of them, so when his mum finds a new partner Max isn’t sure he likes the way that things are going to be from now on… Meanwhile, over the road from Max and living in beautiful-but-crumbling mansion, Rosemount, is Minnie. Living with her sister and now in her seventies, Minnie likes to spend the day thinking back to how her life used to be when her family owned Rosemount and its surrounding grounds. However, her father made the decision to sell off the land during the 1950s, leaving Rosemount now situated bang in the middle of a housing estate. Both Max and Millie decide to tell their stories. Max (who is not too keen on spelling and has a tendency to smudge his writing) does this through a dictaphone, and Millie writes all of her memories down. Things then take an unexpected turn when they spot one another through their bedroom windows and the friendship that follows is heart-warming and inspiring. Along with the telling of their stories, can their newly found companionship help them to overcome the obstacles that they face in life?
Kay Langdale is an author who has always been on my radar, but I must admit that I’ve never actually got round to reading any of her work. I am truly sorry that it has taken me this long to discover such a talented and insightful writer because I absolutely adored The Comfort of Others.
It’s based around such a lovely and truly fascinating storyline. The way that these two very different but equally lost characters find solace in one another will undoubtedly leave you with a warm, fuzzy glow. They strike up a beautiful (yet tentative) friendship and watching it blossom before your very eyes is a complete joy. The set-up with Minnie in this huge, crumbling house which is sat in the middle of a housing estate was just perfect. It provided something completely different and this was The Comfort of Others all over…If I had to pick just one word to describe the story I would go for unique. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it before and as someone who reads lot, that definitely equates to this book being something of a gem.
I loved both Minnie and Max. It’s not unfair to say that Minnie has become a shadow of her former self, never leaving Rosedale and spending her days at the window of the dilapidated mansion, watching life unfold for everyone else before her eyes. When Minnie recalled moments from her past, the story took on much more sombre tone, and I found myself tearing up quite a few times. As for Max – well, this quirky and caring eleven year old boy completely took hold of my heart too. He made me laugh and he made me cry. They were both such complex and well-built characters who quickly captured my attention and the more I discovered about their lives, the further into the story I was drawn.
The way in which the story is told is really effective. Narrated by both characters in alternation, it is wonderful to see the story unfold through both the eyes of an eleven year old, and those of a woman in her seventies. The contrasts in their outlook on life, their thoughts, feelings, emotions. It was all bought together in such a subtle but brilliant way.
The story is beautifully woven and is one of those books where you find yourself turning page after page and not even being really aware that you are doing so. You can’t help but completely lose yourself within these pages and I love it when a book can make me forget about real life for an hour or two. The Comfort of Others did this perfectly and it was one of those books where I really didn’t want to say goodbye to its characters. I loved watching their story unfold and the progression that both Max and Minnie made throughout, but that didn’t mean I wanted this story to end any time soon…
The Comfort of Others is a perfect blend of friendship and the importance of forgiveness. I will certainly be seeking out more from Kay Langdale in the future…
A huge thank you to publishers, Hodder and Stroughton for the opportunity to read and review The Comfort of Others.
Kay Langdale was born in Coventry, England.
From a young age she loved to read and to write.
She attended Bedford College, London University, graduating with a first class degree in English Literature and then went to Oxford University where she completed a doctorate on Samuel Beckett’s prose fiction. She briefly taught twentieth century literature at St Edmund Hall, Oxford before beginning work as an account handler and copywriter at a brand consultancy.
She is married to a South African entrepreneur, with whom she has four children who are now mostly grown. Kay divides her time between their homes in Oxfordshire and Devon.
Now writing her eighth novel, Kay also works as an editor for the charity The Children’s Radio Foundation which trains young broadcasters in six countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
When not writing Kay enjoys running, ballet barre, yoga, swimming, coastal walking, learning Italian, cooking and reading. Always reading.