15 July 2021, The Tablet

The messy miracle

The messy miracle

The Comfort Book
(CANONGATE, 272 PP, £16.99)
Tablet bookshop price £15.29 • tel 020 7799 4064

I read The Comfort Book in one sitting from the first page to the last. Which is probably not the best way to peruse 250-plus large-print pages of anecdotes, snippets, ideas, recipes, aphorisms, lists of quotes and thoughts, all loosely connected by themes of hope, comfort and connection.

This is a commonplace book, and as such has no obvious beginning, middle or end, and no narrative arc. Oddly, it is divided into four parts, none of which is titled or easily differentiated by subject matter.

But Matt Haig (pictured), the novelist and mental-health advocate who has written ­movingly about his own experience of severe depression in Reasons to Stay Alive, makes a virtue of what might otherwise seem sloppy. The book’s structure – or lack of it – deliberately reflects what he calls “the messy miracle of being alive”.

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