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The Novel Cure: If the problem persists, consult the great works of literature

Alice Jones' Arts Diary

It’s a rare problem that cannot be solved by a sit down with a good book. That at least is the thinking behind The Novel Cure, a new A to Z of literary remedies to all manner of ailments, published by Canongate next week.

Man flu? Take a dose of Les Miserables. Heartbroken? Jane Eyre will heal it. Tinnitus? Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom will drown that out. Baldness? Patricia Cornwell’s Blow Fly will make you glad to be hairless.

These are some of the 750 or so tonics suggested by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin who began “prescribing” books to each other at Cambridge University. “I gave Sue a copy of Don Marquis’s Archy and Mehitabel about a cockroach poet when she was feeling temporarily unconfident about her writing. It grew from there,” Berthoud tells me. “This book is the result of 25 years of thought. It has cures for everything from being stuck in a rut, to dealing with your mother-in-law or hating your nose.”

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