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Six unputdownable books to curl up with in 2024

Journalist and professional bookworm Natasha Poliszczuk shares her edit of the best reads to disappear into, accompanied by a blanket and a steaming-hot mug of tea

31 January 2024

Natasha Poliszczuk is a writer, journalist, book influencer and avid bookworm who has written for The Times, The Telegraph, Glamour, Vogue, and Elle. You can discover her current favourite reads on Instagram at @natashapoliszczuk

I have stringent requirements for a book worthy of curling up with. It must be comforting, like sinking into a piping-hot bath or a particularly well-upholstered chair after a long, trying day; it must provide an element of escape – whether that’s transporting you to another place altogether or by proving so absorbing that you forget all else and, above all, it must be joyful – because there is nothing more wondrous for the bookish among us than the adventures contained on the pages within

So, whether you’re finding a moment of calm at home or sipping a steaming hot darjeeling in a cosy corner of The LaLee within The Cadogan, a Belmond Hotel, let the winter rain fall and the wind howl, settle in with one of these books – all available from John Sandoe; all very worthy “curl up” candidates.

The Whalebone Theatre – Joanna Quinn

This lush, generous, sweeping historical epic has it all: a sprawling cast, a crumbling manor house, the vicissitudes of war – and love. It’s glorious stuff, recalling that other great family saga, The Cazalet Chronicles. At Chilcombe, a crumbling manor house on the Dorset coast, the Seagrave children Cristabel, Digby and Flossie enjoy a bohemian childhood of imagination, theatricals (within the titular whalebone, found washed up on the shore), and passionate sibling devotion. But when war breaks out, this becomes a tale of rollicking adventure, espionage and courage behind enemy lines. 

Explore more here.
The Whalebone Theatre

Darling – India Knight

Who (you might well ask) would dare update Nancy Mitford’s peerless classic, The Pursuit of Love? India Knight, that’s who. The result is a sparkling, vivid delight. Marooned on a remote Norfolk estate, with her irascible former-rock-star father, bohemian mother, gaggle of siblings and cousin Franny (our narrator), Linda Radlett dreams of adventure, love and freedom. She finds all three in spades – and takes us along for the ride. It’s full of heart, humour (the dialogue is delicious), humanity and wish fulfilment.

Explore more here.
Darling

The Carlyles at Home – Thea Holme

With Chelsea playing a starring role, this intimate, thoroughly beguiling biography is a behind-the-scenes glimpse of life at home with the Victorian writer and philosopher, Thomas Carlyle, and his long-suffering wife Jane, who lived at 5 (now 24) Cheyne Row in the 1850s. It was written in 1965 when Holme, a former actress, was living at the Carlyle’s House as co-custodian with her husband – it is now run by the National Trust and you can visit it. 

In Holme’s detailed account, Jane grapples with the challenges of running a home, often to great comic effect. There’s a revolving cast of servants (32 maids in 34 years) and all manner of domestic drama: a maid gives birth in the china closet while Carlyle takes tea next door, Jane shrieks at the poet Robert Browning for putting a kettle on her new carpet, remonstrates with builders and argues with a rather petulant Carlyle about draughty open doors.

Explore more here. 
The Carlyles at Home

Miss Austen Investigates – Jessica Bull

Taking on Jane Austen is a risky business, but Jessica Bull pulls it off with aplomb. Truly, it’s the next best thing to finding a lost Austen novel. The Jane portrayed by Bull is clever, sharp, quick-witted and charming. She turns sleuth when a young milliner is bludgeoned to death during a ball. The sense of both the novelist and her world are evoked so precisely, you feel steeped in the Austen universe (there are some lines worthy of Jane). And there’s a mystery to solve – what more could you ask for?

Explore more here. 
Miss Austen Investigates

The Morning Gift – Eva Ibbotson

Ruth Berger is the brilliant, beautiful, beloved child of Viennese intelligentsia, but their idyllic existence is shattered by Hitler. To escape, Ruth makes a secret marriage of convenience to the eccentric, wealthy young Professor Quin. Impecunious but safe in London, Ruth finds herself studying zoology under the eagle eye of said Quin (who happens to have a flat on Chelsea’s Cheyne Walk with river views and where the trees “looked like they might have been planted by a queen”). Good job Ruth and Quin are in absolutely no way drawn to each other…

Explore more here. 
The Morning Gift

The Enchanted April – Elizabeth von Arnim

There is no finer panacea for a dreary day than von Arnim’s charming, sun-soaked novella. Four genteel Englishwomen respond to an advertisement in The Times appealing to “those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine” to rent an Italian castle for a month. Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot lead lives of quiet desperation and unhappy marriages; Lady Caroline is tired of London society; formidable Mrs Fisher exists in the past. But as the Italian landscape and light seep into their souls, they are transformed, ready to love and be loved. It is the ultimate escapist fairytale: reading it is like turning your face towards the sun.

Explore more here. 
The Enchanted April
Discover these enchanting novels and more at Chelsea’s independent bookshop John Sandoe Books
IMAGE CREDITS: Natasha Poliszczuk

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