Betcha Nevah Hoida Dese
February 2018

When it comes to light “delightful reads”—that is, intelligent, well-written novels with believable characters and happy endings, books that are amusing and entertaining—writers like P.G. Wodehouse, Jane Austen, and Maria Semple come to mind.

But I have discovered various other authors of such delightful reads—most of them relatively little known.

Laurie Colwin wrote delightful comedies of manners and morals with characters who tend to be good-hearted, sane, and, well, happy. Critics say: “Colwin writes with . . .sunny skill and such tireless enthusiasm.”  (The New York Times Book Review);  “Colwin’s novels have great charm—a charm that comes from a calm, witty and observant world view and her engaging writing style.”  (Buffalo News)

Colwin wrote five novels. My favorites include Happy All the Time and Goodbye Without Leaving.

Emily Eden: The New York Times says it all: “The only thing more gratifying to find than a good book is a good book which has been neglected. The Semi-Attached Couple, written in 1829, published in 1860, popular for years, then largely forgotten, is a comic gem about how difficult it can be to get used to being married, even if you are young and beautiful and your husband is rich and titled. Along with Emily Eden’s only other novel, The Semi-Detached House (some readers will find this one even more delightful), it has now been reissued in paperback in the Virago Modern Classics series, which seems to specialize in buried treasure.”

Personally, my favorite of the two is The Semi-Detached House, about the unlikely conjunction of two families of different class backgrounds, but I enjoyed The Semi-Attached Couple as well.

Alexander McCall Smith: Well, of course, everybody knows about the well-loved “No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” series. However, McCall Smith has written numerous other series as well, most of which I find pretty bad—especially the “Professor Dr. von Igelfeld Entertainments.” Ugh.

However, I find the characters in one other of his series, “44 Scotland Street,” to be almost as endearing and funny as those in the “Ladies Detective Agency.” In “44 Scotland Street,” a group of residents and neighbors in Edinburgh come to life in “gently satirical, wonderfully perceptive novels, featuring six-year-old Bertie, a remarkably precocious boy—just ask his mother.”

Start with the first book, also entitled 44 Scotland Street.

Laurie Frankel is a younger writer, having published her debut novel in 2010. She also describes herself as “the parent of one child, the minder of one border collie, the partner of one husband, the denizen of one city (Seattle), and the reader of tens of thousands of books.”

The Atlas of Love is the charming story of three graduate school roommates with very different backgrounds who agree to tri-parent a baby named Atlas, featuring literary theory to think about, many great characters, and nice turns of phrase. “This beautifully written debut novel offers something for everyone—humor, richly drawn characters and a tender exploration of love, friendship and food.” (LA Times Magazine)

OK, now you know some of my favorite “light but literate” novels, I’d love to hear some of yours.