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Friday, 8 January 2010

Vintage Domestic Fiction 2010

And so begins another year of reading. Last year I feel was somewhat lost to a litany of lazy reading and I am eager to get back to curling up with the kind of early to mid-twentieth century domestic fiction that really makes my heart sing.

One of the first projects I suggested on the Puttery Post for 2010 was inspired by National Book Blitz Month...

" It is National Book Blitz Month: the month an entire nation is urged to bury it's head in a book or twenty nine, discover something new or get to know it's favorite authors all over again...

And so in honour of the occasion, might I suggest you set upon creating a list of must-read books for 2010? Choose a book for every month of the year: books you have always planned to read but have never found the time, books from one particular author or books that will teach you everything you need to know about a subject that makes your heart a little giddy...

Note the books down in your book journal (You do have one don't you?), create an Amazon Wishlist to remind you of your book choices or put all twelve books on order at your local library.

While other books will no doubt tickle your fancy throughout the year, make a commitment to read your chosen books along the way and end the year a little more knowledgeable, familiar with an author who will feel like a life long friend or indeed throughly inspired by the kind of classic writing that will be written on your heart thereafter...

A Puttery Treat with the power to change your life methinks...."

And as she in charge of living the puttery dream I rather think it is my duty to commit out loud to my very own reading list for the next twelve months. So without further ado, here it is. Feel free to create your own list, put it on your blog, read my monthly reviews, or indeed read along with me and throw in your own twopenneth...

A Glass of Blessings.
 A Glass of Blessings
Having been gently thrilled with both Excellent Women and Jane and Prudence I found myself searching for my next journey into Barbara Pyms thoroughly charming, terribly British imagination and happened across "A Glass of Blessings",described thus in a review on Amazon...

"We are in 1950s London with an excellent cast of characters. The pathalogically domesticated Keith, forever washing down paintwork and boiling discloths in Tide; Father Thames, the gourmet priest with a penchant for Lapsang Souchong which can never be satisfied at parish get-togethers; and the kleptomaniac Wilf Bason, housekeeper at the clergy house, whose idea of a suitable meal for Lent is fried octopus; these are among the best."

I can't wait.

Cheerful Weather For the Wedding.
Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (Persephone Classics)
Cheerful Weather For the Wedding has been on my list of "must reads" for a long time and I was thrilled when Persephone published it with such a beautiful cover. Set during just one day, the book describes the tangled emotion and chaos leading up to and after a family wedding, and is described by The Guardian as "A brilliant, bittersweet upstairs-downstairs comedy”.

At Mrs Lippincote's
At Mrs Lippincote's (Virago Modern Classics)
Elizabeth Taylors writing is an absolute joy so I'm looking forward to At Mrs Lippincote's, the story of an Army wife struggling to meet her husbands high ideals, described in an Amazon review thus...

"Billeted temporarily to the village and home of the eponymous Mrs. Lippincote to be near her husband, an officer in the RAF, Julia Davenant is expected to be a model officer's wife, serving meals to her husband's commanding officers, joining in the fun had by his fellows and their wives, and behaving so as not to attract attention or to embarrass him. Reminded of these obligations by the model of the domestic Lippincotes that surrounds her in her new home, she chooses instead to escape into an inner world of observation and intellectual reflection as she cares for her husband, her sickly son, and her husband's censorious "odd woman" cousin Eleanor who serves as both company and as foil for the nonconformist Julia."

The Scent of Water
The Scent of Water
Having never heard of Elizabeth Goudge, (shame on me) this is the one book of all those I have chosen for the year that I am looking forward to because there is no greater joy than discovering an author others are raving about.
The Scent of Water tells the tale of a woman leaving city life and adapting to the quirks and eccentricities of life in the countryside house she has inherited. Described as enchanting by more than one reviewer, April cannot come soon enough for me.

Young Hearts Crying
 Young Hearts Crying (Vintage Contemporaries)
It is my belief that one has to steel one's emotions before attempting to read a Richard Yates novel, so devastating are they both in terms of storyline and powerful writing. Having adored Revolutionary Road, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness and the wonderful Easter Parade, this description of the decay of a marriage over thirty years looks set to break my heart all over again, which is why I am choosing May as the month to read it, being after all the Springiest, happiest month of the entire year.

The Girls of Slender Means
The Girls of Slender Means
Wanna  hear a confession? I have avoided Muriel Spark all my life because her reputation as "funny" goes before her and that makes me think she is the vintage equivalent of Kathy Lette and there goes a woman who gives me tummy ache.  However now that I am all growed up and know that funny can deftly disguise what is both bleak and harrowing, I am ready to give this much loved  writer a chance to write her way into my heart.
So avoiding the obvious and opting for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, I am instead going for The Girls of Slender Means, an apparent dictionary of a book described by one reader on Amazon as "the best novel ever"- an accolade I can hardly resist...

The Brimming Cup: -1921  
The Brimming Cup: -1921
The Home-Maker was my favorite read of 2008 and I'm really not sure why it has taken me so long to read another of Dorothy Canfield-Fishers books. As I know nothing about The Brimming Cup this book is going to be something of an unknown quantity on the list, but luckily I'm the kind of girl who really rather enjoys surprises. Wish me luck...though if the writing is as good as that in The Home-Maker, I just won't need it.

Few Eggs and No Oranges: Vere Hodgson's Diary, 1940-45
Few Eggs and No Oranges: Vere Hodgson's Diary, 1940-45
The second on my list of books from Persephone is Few Eggs and No Oranges, a title I find curiously inviting speaking as it does of shopping lists and rations. As I am over-fond of the kind of wartime historical nonsense novels it really doesn't do to speak of in these circles, I am looking forward to a book that pulls no punches about the realities of war-time London and a diary I can dip in and out of seemed the obvious choice for a month likely to be busy with so much to see and do beyond the reading chair.

A House and Its Head
A House and Its Head (New York Review Books Classics)
And with a new season, a complete change of pace designed to have me dipping into a murder most gruesome and a witty novel stuffed with Edwardian family politics from the much celebrated Ivy Comptom- Burnett.

Nightingale Wood
Nightingale Wood
Everybody adores Cold Comfort Farm and I have heard good things about Stella Gibbons' further comedy of manners Nightingale Wood, not least that Sophie Dahl (who I totally heart) has described it as a "fairytale".
Taking a similar format of stranding a girl with a head full of frippery in the dourest circumstances peopled by a range of eccentric characters, rumour has it that this will be the kind of giddy romp just right for curling up with as the nights draw in.

The Fountain Overflows
The Fountain Overflows (New York Review Books Classics)
While I have never really taken to magic realism as a genre in it’s own right, of all the books on the list this is perhaps the one I am most excited about, if only because of this review:

"I have been reading, reading, reading for fifty plus years. Oddly I don't dream about books, but this one was an exception. The character Cordelia came to haunt my sleep, lively and unforgettable. A vivid, surprising, unpredictable, eccentric, and thoroughly original work. Seek it out."

And another that declares that Rebecca West's novel about a gifted family perpetually down on it's luck is her favorite book in the world. Perhaps it will be mine.

Wild Strawberries
Wild Strawberries (Angela Thirkell Barsetshire Series)
Finally we come to the last book of the year, Wild Strawberries, a light-hearted "witty romp through English Country-house life at its most delightfully absurd",deliberately chosen, first because a comedy of manners will not to be at odds with the joy of the festive season, and secondly because it is the first of a series of books featuring the Leslie family, that will I hope take me sailing into 2011 possessed by the need to live in their world that little bit longer...


Carol said...

Now after reading this post, it looks like I will be adding several books to my collection. Thanks for posting these; most of these sound like the type of books I will love.

Kim said...

If you didn't mention "At Mrs. Lippincotes", I was going to recommend it. I'm in the middle of it right now (lovely Christmas present) & it is perfect. Another recommendation, if you can get your hands on it, is the book "Mrs. Miniver". More to it than the movie & I think that you'd really love it, if you haven't read it already.

Katherine said...

Love the list--I think I might make one for myself on my somewhat neglected blog! ;)

Anonymous said...

I could easily read a book a month. My poor excuse is computer use has cut into what used to be sit down and read time. Good a time as any to remedy that methinks!

"Cheerful Weather For The Wedding" looks like something to add to my list.


Jenny said...

Love, love, love this list and I will definitely join in. I have already read two of them, Few Eggs and No Oranges and At Mrs Lippincotes - I have actually read them both twice. I love Barbara Pym and Elizabeth Goudge and Elizabeth Taylor. I will link to your list on my blog, I am going to read along with you and maybe some of my blog readers will want to also.

Anonymous said...


Alejandra said...

Oh what a fantastic post! I've been looking for a list like this for a while. I'm very excited to check these out. Thank you!

The Hausfrau said...

What a fantastic list! I had a couple of these in my Amazon wish list already, but I went immediately and added just about all the rest (can't quite take another Richard Yates novel just yet, after the devastation of Revolutionary Road, but other than that...). I know we should all make our own lists for the year, but have you considered a Brocante read-along? That would be fun!

Mrs.S said...

I stumbled upon this post/list through a link on another blog that I read regularly. I am very excited about it! Thank you for sharing.

The Hausfrau said...

Heh. I just realized that I came up with the "brilliant" idea of a Brocante Read-along after you had already suggested it in the first part of this post. Sheesh! I was clearly caught up in getting right to the wonderful books you had chosen! I do plan on reading the January Barbara Pym book with you, though I'll be getting a late start as it probably won't arrive until the first part of next week. Where should we post our thoughts on the books as we're reading?

skromnypani said...

Oh Alison. Thank you so much for posting this. Just reading all the descriptions of these books is a puttery treat itself and made me feel so comforted to have some lovely reads to look forward to. Of all these, I'm only familiar with Barbara Pym and Muriel Spark and none of the titles is familiar, but they look lovely. This is a warm little nugget I will carry with me through tedious days, knowing I will have a scrumptious read each month. Bless you.

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