Comfort and Joy: A Novel

( 3 )


If Bridget Jones had two ex-husbands, three children, and invited her entire extended family over for Christmas...

It's December 23, and Clara Dunphy is running around Oxford Street like a chicken with its head cut off trying to pick up "a few last- minute bits and bobs." Despite the frenzy, the twice-divorced mother of three loves Christmas and always wants to make it perfect. A challenge even in the best of times, but particularly when "family" means an extended network of ...

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Comfort and Joy: A Novel

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If Bridget Jones had two ex-husbands, three children, and invited her entire extended family over for Christmas...

It's December 23, and Clara Dunphy is running around Oxford Street like a chicken with its head cut off trying to pick up "a few last- minute bits and bobs." Despite the frenzy, the twice-divorced mother of three loves Christmas and always wants to make it perfect. A challenge even in the best of times, but particularly when "family" means an extended network of in-laws, out-laws, ex-stepfathers, and hangers-on, totaling sixteen. Is the madness of Christmas really worth it? Clara is a witty, blackly funny everywoman who will win over anyone who has ever longed to shut out the holidays with "a giant martini . . . and some olives."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sunday Times columnist and YA writer Knight (The Dirty Bits for Girls) creates a space for musings on love, family, and the simultaneous trials and delights of the holiday season in her perpetually witty first novel for adults. Readers follow Londoner Clara Dunphy née Hutt through multiple relationships over the course of three Christmases as she searches for the perfect celebration and looks for answers to her own murky family history. While the setting and tone change from Christmas to Christmas, that unerringly familiar combination of glow and chaos, what remains constant is a cast of lovable characters, from Pat, Clara’s Northern Irish mother-in-law, who insists on speaking in an offensive combination of slang and Spanish on a family trip to Morocco, to Clara’s free-spirited stepsisters. Dotting the landscape are Clara’s questions about the biological father she never knew but can’t stop thinking about. Although there’s little in the way of plot and the extended family can get Rockwellian, Knight makes up for it with well-paced dialogue and amusing and insightful anecdotes. The author captures the spirit of the season while giving us a glimpse into one modern family’s struggle with children, marital turmoil, and materialism. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Not everything gets wrapped up in a neat little bow in Knight's (My Life on a Plate) refreshingly sharp take on domestic bliss. The reader first meets Clara Dunphy's blended London clan in 2009. A cocktail-fueled discussion of men and women, biological clocks, and the myth of the perfect marriage foreshadows the subsequent two Christmases. Women's fiction with bite.
Kirkus Reviews

Knight's favorite heroine (My Life on a Plate, 2001) returns, now remarried and juggling a hectic mixed family and a potential new love over the course of three consecutive holiday seasons.

It's two days before Christmas, and Clara Dunphy takes a break for a champagne cocktail during a last-minute shopping trip.Unexpectedly, she meets a handsome stranger who asks her to stay for a drink.Clara is still married, to a choreographer named Sam, and has a daughter with him and two teenaged sons with her first husband, Robert.But things with Sam have been rocky lately, and Clara can't quite imagine them growing old together.Nonetheless, she returns home to a hectic dinner involving both Sam and Robert, the children, a critical mother, a dottering mother-in-law and several friends in complicated states of single-hood and couple-hood.The brood has a lot to drink and things get awkward, though nothing much actually happens, somewhat emblematic of the novel as a whole.Fast-forward a year.Sam and Clara's marriage has indeed dissolved, and she has rekindled her relationship with the stranger from the previous Christmas, though everyone except said stranger is gathered again for another dinner at her house.Clara finally seems rightly concerned about the effect of all this on her children, which harkens back to issues from her own childhood (though she did have a consistent father figure, her mother is now on her fourth husband, which clearly haunts her).On the third Christmas featured, Clara takes the show on the road, embarking on a family holiday to Morocco. And what of the stranger? Stay tuned. Clara loves Christmas, and it's easy to see why—as long as she can keep all the disjointed people in her life together, they will remain, in the best possible ways, a family.

Plotless, though clearly warm-hearted holiday fun.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143119814
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/27/2011
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,032,374
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

India Knight is a bestselling writer and columnist for The Sunday Times in London, where she lives with her three children.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 14, 2011

    A little too out of control and weird...

    Comfort and Joy follows Clara Dunphy backwards and forwards through her life to all the significant Christmases she encounters. She is a British everywoman - mother, wife, and daughter who is forever determined to make every Christmas the perfect day for her large brood of friends, family, and ex-husbands. Yearly she drives herself to the brink of madness searching for the perfect presents, cooking the requisite giant meal, and trying to maintain harmony among her troops.

    I'm sure that many people will recognize bits and pieces of themselves and their own holiday mania in Comfort and Joy. Still, Clara's circumstances were just a little more extreme, out of control, and weird than the average Christmas. Year after year she seemed to land in full family drama. After the first few years it felt like maybe Clara was one of those people who creates drama where ever they go. I started to feel less and less sorry for her and by the end couldn't much relate to her. Some parts were funny and I found a few of the characters, her mother especially, endearing. I guess I just prefer the traditional, cheesy Christmas stories.

    I listened to Comfort and Joy on audio read by Anne Flosnik. She has a thick, British accent that goes well with the story and suits Clara's character.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2014

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