The word "cozy"
describes a particular kind of British mystery that spares readers
gruesome details. It is equally appropriate applied to novels such as
those written by Mrs. Gaskell and Dora Jessie Saint, who is known by
her character's name, Miss Read.
Miss Read is a schoolmistress in the stereotypically charming English village of Fairacre in more than a dozen books. As A Peaceful Retirement opens, she has just retired and is looking forward to solitude and unfilled days. She hasn't anticipated being asked to mediate in a former suitor's marital troubles or to revise a history of the local church. Another male friend incessantly asks her to marry him, and even her oldest female friend doesn't understand why Miss Read prefers being alone.
A Miss Read book is a gentle and funny read. Nothing truly troubling happens. A hasty reader might dismiss it as lightweight. But that reader perhaps hasn't noticed that Miss Read makes spot-on comments about human nature, doesn't sugarcoat anything, and has an acerbic wit.
There is another attraction of Miss Read's books for anglophiles. They are like an insider's travelogues about English village life, taking us to tea in sitting rooms and on strolls in blooming gardens and drives in the verdant countryside.
A Peaceful Retirement, the final book in the Fairacre series, is also a bit of a retirement advice manual for people approaching or entering that milestone. At first Miss Read is somewhat at a loss in her new situation, but she is able to "come to terms with my retirement" thanks to friends, health, home, and a central interest to pursue at her own pace.
Besides the Fairacre books, Dora Saint wrote another Miss Read series set in the fictional village of Thrush Green.
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