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Books with Heart – Eleanor Ray

I love books that make me feel better about people. Stories can be dark and mysterious and full of danger, but by the time I’ve finished reading, I like to feel a warm glow – to know that redemption is possible. That warm feeling lingers afterwards, like a nice hot chocolate or a lovely hug. And at a time when hot chocolates have often had to be takeaway and hugs are few and far between, it’s more important than ever.


That’s why I’m a big fan of Joanna Cannon’s books, my favourite being The Trouble with Goats and Sheep. She shows humanity with all its faults and pitfalls, but this comes hand-in-hand with kindness, affection and the power of community. Joanna Nell’s The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village does the same – whatever a character’s age and circumstances, there is always capacity for laughter. Eleanor Oliphant for me is a perfect book and I re-read it all the time – the humour, the heartache, the prospect of recovery.


That’s why I’m a sucker for a good love story too. It can be terribly sad– like Holly’s Miller’s The Sight of You – but even so, the relationship are so beautifully depicted that ultimately it’s uplifting. Lorna Cook’s sweeping timeslip novels, such as The Forgotten Village, show love spanning the ages and make me pleased to be alive. Anna Cookson’s The Sound of your Soul tells an amazingly imaginative, lyrical tale of love in a post-apocalyptic London.


I enjoy cosy crime for this same reason.  Dark things happen and there’s a mystery to keep the pages turning, but they have a warmth too. The crimes may be terrible, but we don’t linger there, moving swiftly along to the detectives showing their humanity. These books frequently take us to another time and place. A few of my favourites are Vaseem Khan’s Baby Ganesh series with a baby elephant helping his detective in India, LC Tyler’s John Grey mysteries which transport us to the seventeenth century and Fliss Chester’s world war II murder mysteries. A different world to the one we live in today, but the same heart.


There are some books I just want to read again and again, and it’s always because of the characters. One Day by David Nicholls is a masterclass on writing relationships, with his protagonists’ love for each other shining through despite all their faults and foibles. In a time when human interactions have been limited, I love it when books remind me why, ultimately, people are better when they are together.


– Eleanor Ray