Monday, November 14, 2016

Getting Cosy

I have spent this morning reading the Sunday newspapers as stunned commentators come to grips with the astonishing result of the US election. Like most of them I had certainly figured it wrongly, just as I did the Brexit vote. The world just at the moment seems a very uncertain place.

Perhaps it's no coincidence that recently, here in Britain at least, hygge has become the buzz word. Has it hit America yet? It's a Danish word, pronounced 'hooge' if you sort of flatten the 'o' with an 'eu' sound. More or less. I think. And everybody's doing it – taking a sort of very stylish duvet day.

The word describes the lovely comfortable feeling you have in a warm room with a log fire burning, a soft throw wrapped round you, lots of candles, coffee and cake and a few good friends. You are secure. Safe. Cosy.

And that word 'cosy' brings me back to something I've always struggled with a bit. When I started out writing crime novels I'd never heard the American term 'cosy' applied to them and to be honest I still haven't quite worked out how you decide whether a book is, or isn't, a 'cosy'. I just don't get it.

I think I can confidently recognise 'noir'. Graphic violence, entrails, maggots – definitely noir. Hard-boiled - you have a man come in the door with a gun. Miss Scarlet, in the library with the candlestick - cosy, presumably? But a bit of strangulation, blood, a body long dead and definitely not nice to be near – is this a cosy if the circumstances in which it is found are highly respectable?

A psychological thriller - could this be a cosy if nothing too violent is described but nonetheless it's the sort of book you wouldn't take to bed with you if you were alone in the house on a dark and stormy night? Or what about The Hound of the Baskervilles? I had nightmares for years after I read that at an impressionable age, so not cosy at all, really. But the scenes in Baker Street are distinctly domestic, even if what's in Holmes's pipe isn't actually tobacco.

I'd really like someone to explain the criteria for me. I might want to write one myself. Since more than one person's reaction to the political news on Thursday has been to stay in bed and pull the duvet over their head for comfort, there might be a big rush on torches and reassuring 'cosys' to take in there with them.


Sybil Johnson said...

I haven't heard that word, hygge, used in the U.S.

I've heard several different definitions of cozy mysteries. People seem to disagree on it somewhat. The best I can come up with is no sex scenes, no excessive violence, murder is generally not shown on the page, detective is usually an amateur sleuth, the emphasis is on solving the mystery. At least that's my definition. I'm sort of a "I'll know it when I see it" kind of person when it comes to cozies. Also, the crime takes place in a small community of some kind. That might mean a small town, but it also might mean a community of people who interested in the same thing, like knitters, tole painters, etc.

Sybil Johnson said...

Oh, I forgot the most important thing, to me, anyway. The bad guy is always revealed and gets his/her comeuppance at the end.

Aline Templeton said...

Thanks, Sybil. I can definitely manage the small community and the reveal at the end (seeing the bad guy/girl get what they deserve is my favuorite bit) but I've a nasty feeling blood from the corpse might sort of seep on to the page...

Susan D said...

Don't forget the cat. Or the recipes. Or that the amateur sleuth/craft expert is often romantically involved with the local lawman.

But really, it's an ongoing definition that has many variations.