Kay Langdale

The Comfort of Others


The Comfort of Others

Published 2 June 2016 by Hodder & Stoughton

Clara will be rounding the corner soon. I could set my wristwatch by her. Tap tap tap goes her stick on the pavement, but I can’t actually hear it so I am embellishing that part. The shopping trolley looks particularly full. Likely she will have bought curly kale, swedes, turnips; floor wax, too. Tomorrow I will polish the hall floor. The colour of the wax is Bishop’s Cardinal Red.

Clara’s posture is impressive. ‘Did you ever ballet dance, m’dear?’ a market stallholder asked her once. She told me she shook her head and said, ‘No, never.’ She is not stand-offish, but she can be mistaken for being so. I am less likely to be misunderstood, mostly because I hardly go out and I speak as little as possible. It has crossed my mind that all my unsaid words might be stacked up somewhere, waiting, like a wick, to be set alight. If it ever happens, I wonder if I will find myself torched by a hot flame of words.

The marmalade cat which belongs to a house down the road is looping itself around the gatepost. It lifts its tail like an ensign. Clara will shoo it away with her stick. She can’t abide cats, their scratching and scraping.


Minnie has lived her whole life with her sister Clara in Rosemount, her family’s beautiful, grand, crumbling house. Clara organises their daily life, and Minnie is reflective and watchful. Max lives with mother in the housing estate built around Rosemount. It is the school summer holidays, and she has a new boyfriend who is making Max’s life tricky. Slowly, hesitantly, an unlikely friendship forms between Max and Minnie as she shares with him the antiques Rosemount holds. As Max begins to tell his story, Minnie begins to write about hers and reveals the secret which has shaped her life. A novel about courage, forgiveness and the power of friendship, The Comfort of Others is about coming to terms with the present and laying to rest the ghosts of the past.


Langdale is a wonderful writer, plots beautifully and is brilliant at showing her characters’ inner worlds.Daily Mail

In this double portrait each voice comes from a combination of speech, thought and writing for a tale of cruelty and redemption both moving and deeply satisfying.Oxford Times