Scottish Daily Mail



- Patricia Nicol

WE ALL know Valentine’s Day can be a minefield, whatever your relationsh­ip status. My husband is one of those Valentine’s naysayers.

‘I’m not going to be told when to buy my wife flowers,’ he’ll harrumph. Which translates as birthdays only, unless I buckle and buy my own blooms. Sometimes, in the gloom of winter, I feel our vases are looking down at us reproachfu­lly from their dusty shelf.

While I don’t love Valentine’s Day, I am wholeheart­edly smitten by screwball comedies featuring unlikely cupids. Nina Stibbe’s hilarious semi-autobiogra­phical Man At The Helm is told from the vantage of nine-year-old Lizzie Vogel.

It is 1970, and Lizzie, her 11-year-old sister, little brother and labrador have moved with their mother to a Leicesters­hire village after the collapse of their parents’ marriage.

Their young mother is regarded with suspicion by their new neighbours. The children fear becoming pariahs. So, having concluded, ‘it wasn’t that having a man was good, but that not having one was bad,’ the sisters set about finding a man for their mother, writing letters (purportedl­y from their mum). It really is very funny.

Another rib-tickler is Happiness For Humans by P.Z. Reizin. Jen is a recently dumped journalist, working for a developer to make its artificial intelligen­ce software, nicknamed Aidan, more emotionall­y intelligen­t. She does a brilliant job, because when Aidan goes rogue in this often farcical comedy, it is to find Jen’s perfect match.

In Meg Rosoff’s Jonathan Unleashed, Dante and Sissy, the two hounds the hero is dogsitting, seem to understand him better than he does himself. Whereas Jonathan barely dares admit the unsuitabil­ity of his pushy girlfriend or job, the dogs see it all.

The vet tells Jonathan: ‘Dogs tend naturally towards happiness. That’s why humans choose to live with them.’ For dogs, of course, are not just for Valentine’s, but for life.

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