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Five of the best escapist books

Five of the best escapist books

Real life is overrated. But as readers we can escape to any elsewhere our heart desires – and at present all my heart wants is hope and kindness and liberty and pure escapism. Which is not to say triviality – each of the books below has an immersive loveliness, but one combined with depth, insight and gorgeous prose. After all, it’s not a true escape if you’re tripping over horrible adverbs all the time. These are my prescriptions for a strong dose of joy.

Miss Buncle’s Book by DE Stevenson

The quiet village of Silverstream is upended when a wildly successful novel is published depicting the antics of characters far too familiar to be coincidence. Silverstream’s matrons are up in arms, launching a manhunt for the culprit. It is a tonic from beginning to end.

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

Juliet, Naked contains one of the most spectacularly hilarious and maddeningly awful boyfriends in contemporary literature. Duncan has an all-consuming obsession with Tucker Crowe, a reclusive American singer-songwriter, and Duncan’s longsuffering girlfriend Annie is forced to live, in a way, with both of them. There is gentle wish fulfilment when Tucker Crowe himself connects with lonely Annie, and a friendship ensues that sustains and empowers each of them. Sheer pleasure.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Oddly, another novel in which celebrities collide with civilians. Pasquale runs the hotel Adequate View in a tiny Italian village, to which tourists mostly come by accident, thinking it somewhere else. It is “about” this earnest, gentlemanly hotelier and his modest dreams of a cliffside tennis court, but it is also about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, failure and comebacks, writing, success, fatherhood, and second chances.

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All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

Tale after tale of such gentle loveliness, a passion for animals and for the Yorkshire landscape itself, but beyond that, Herriot’s observational humour is innocent and so silly. Utterly irresistible when set alongside, and sometimes within, some truly poignant stories of love and loss among the rough Dales farmers. Another world, in the best way.

Family Happiness by Laurie Colwin

At the bosom of her tight-knit clan, Polly Solo-Miller exists in a world of family obligation and endless enforced socialising. Polly is a paragon of Manhattan virtue with a high-flying husband, two perfect children and a part-time job she treasures – one that is valued so little by her relatives that it provides the ideal cover for the passionate affair she’s having with a painter. Colwin has been criminally undervalued as a writer, but she was deliciously sharp, funny, fearless, graceful and full of charm.

  • Welcome to Glorious Tuga by Francesca Segal is published by Chatto & Windus (£18.99) on 6 June. To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply

Source: theguardian.com