Isn’t the weather glorious? I remember very few summers when the promise of a fine summer, so often present in May, lasted much beyond the start of June. It’s 23rd July now, my grass is a strange shade of ochre, and water is beginning to assume a revered position in my life.
The downside of office work is a distinct lack of weeks off over the summer. As a teacher (and as a mother!) summer holidays were a time to lie in ever so slightly (if this is my husband reading… no, I never had a lie in. I always got up as soon as you left), pootle around the house and garden, cleaning and tidying as I went and…. above all… a time to read. Now I work from 9 until 4, 5 or beyond and reading time has become a resource every bit as precious as water in a drought. I don’t want to waste my time reading less-than-satisfactory books. I’ve reached the age now where I’m happy to never finish a book if it’s not captured me, and I will set aside those who haven’t got me hooked after a chapter or two. Time is precious, and life is short.
That’s why I can heartily recommend these two books today. For several reasons, I loved them both and they held me enchanted in a chic-o-lit world. Perfect romances, lovely characters, cosy interiors.
The Little Cafe in Copenhagen by Julie Caplin is a great hygge read. It’s about Kate, a London publicist and Advertising exec who finds herself out manoeuvered by the Bad Man in her life, soon to be ex-boyfriend, Josh. When he gets HER promotion using HER idea, she feels deflated, let down by her high powered life. Her big break comes when she is the only one available to pitch ideas to Lars, whose cool Danish Design store is looking to open in London and wanting to promote the hygge in daily life for everyone.
Kate wins the contract, of course, and the big PR launch includes a press junket to Denmark, to explore hygge in its traditional home. The cafe of the title is where Kate ends up every morning, learning about love, life and hygge the Danish way from Eva, who runs the place and also happens to be Lars’ mother.
Things don’t run smoothly, of course not, and Kate’s week with the journalists turns up interesting facts about them all. I’ll go no further with the plot, except to say it’s lovely and cosy with hints of danger, just the way a good hygge book should be. I loved the characters, and the camaraderie, and I’d just love to go on a press junket like theirs! The book also teaches about hygge, what it is and how to get it in your life, in a lovely, un-preachy way. I’ll be giving this with a copy of Meik Wiking’s Little Book of Hygge and my first book to a few friends this year. It really is a beautiful little story, and I’m sure I’ll read her other books at some time in the future as well.
Suddenly as I looked up to the light slanting in from the third storey roof, across the planes of the wood clad walls into the muted halls of the store, I understood exactly what Eva had been talking about, the very first time I met her. It was somehow soothing to be surrounded by nice things. I didn’t hanker after owning them all. I didn’t want to buy things (OK a few) but it was somehow balm to the soul to be surrounded by things of beauty, of style, of taste.
It was the Danish equivalent of stopping to smell the roses.
The Little Cornish Kitchen by Jane Linfoot is hygge as well, even if the word is only ever used about Clem (the heroine)’sbest friend called Sophie and her scandi-chic decorating style. It’s about friendship, being happy in yourself and with your past, looking beyond the obvious and becoming the person you can be. Oh, and it’s about roots, setting down roots and finding the place that makes you feel hyggely. Clem works in Paris but comes back to St Austin after she inherits a flat off her paternal Grandmother. She never knew her father, and has issues (a lot of issues) that mean she’s been a traveller for so long. But the magic of community works on her and she finds herself wanting to stay.
I loved the location descriptions, the buildings and interiors. I want to live in Laura’s flat now, and to make my garden gorgeous with bunting. And, oh, the food…. meringues, brownies, cupcakes, pavlovas, fools, sorbets…. I’m on a strict health diet and this book was heavenly torture to read. I know I’ll read it again next year just to get the chance to cook my way through it.
No plot spoilers, but the plot is lovely, romantic, has its twists and turns and, at one point, made me cry on the underground. I want a cat called Pancake and a dog called Diesel, but I’ll settle for my guinea pigs for now.
I hold my breath as I tiptoe in. Then as I look around at a room crammed with cosy sofas and tables and shelves full of books I let out a gasp. “Oh my, the same furniture’s still here, it’s like I’ve flipped back thirty years.” Whatever I was expecting, it wasn’t to step into a time warp. Although up until this moment, just like with the thyme and the creaky stairs, I’d mostly forgotten. And obviously now I’m seeing it as an adult, I’m appreciating the whole arty Bohemian patchwork of the room that I never saw as a child. “It’s still got the same cosy warmth, but I never realised it was quite this pretty or perfect.”
Both books make excellent reading if you need an escape, but don’t want to leave the house. I know I’ve got plans for the living room now almost entirely based on Laura’s flat. And no cat.
Hygge and happiness go so well together. If you’d like to read about the small things that have helped me to be happier, my new book is available from Amazon. Happier is all about how to use the small details in life to make you happier. You can get it at Amazon. I also think the principles of enjoying life and making the most of small details is an important part of hygge and that runs through my first few books as well. You can find details about all my books, and how to connect with me on social media on the Start Here page of my blog.