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Novels about restoring houses
October 9, 2012 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Please tell me of novels where restoring an old house is an important part of the plot, and where there is also a happy ending.

Ones I already know about:
Folly, by Laurie King
The House on Tradd Street, by Karen White
Restoring Grace, by Katie Fforde
Tribute, by Nora Roberts
Child of a Rainless Year, by Jane Lindskold
Murder on the Ghost Walk (and sequels), by Ellen Elizabeth Hunter
If Walls Could Talk, by Juliet Blackwell.

Thank you!
posted by paduasoy to Writing & Language (29 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Annie Proulx's The Shipping News is a good twist on this theme.
posted by peachfuzz at 8:03 AM on October 9, 2012

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, by Eric Hodgins. Also a fine film starring Cary Grant!
posted by Dr. Wu at 8:06 AM on October 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:14 AM on October 9, 2012

Under The Tuscan Sun
posted by sagwalla at 8:15 AM on October 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

Not a novel, but creative non-fiction, All the Way Home by David Giffels is a fun read about restoring a falling-down mansion.
posted by slogger at 8:20 AM on October 9, 2012

(um, I linked to the film, but the book is actually better than the film at covering the home restoration aspects)...
posted by sagwalla at 8:21 AM on October 9, 2012

It's a children's book, but Gone-Away Lake.
posted by dekathelon at 8:24 AM on October 9, 2012

Not a novel, but The Most Beautiful House in the World by Witold Rybczynski is a rambling essay about his decision to build a boat shelter that turns into a house-building project.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:56 AM on October 9, 2012

If happy endings weren't a criterion, I could cite a lot of horror films, House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III.

If you want to be frustrated to your wit's end before reaching the "happy" ending, there's Richardson's Pamela: guy tries to repeatedly rape his servant; she repeatedly finds a way to escape being raped, either by running away or by fainting; in the end, he marries her, and she is made into the "woman of the house" and given the task of remodeling it. Allegory for the rise of the bourgeoisie in relation to the aristocracy.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 9:13 AM on October 9, 2012

Also not a novel but reads like one, On A Street Called Easy, In A Cottage Called Joye was written by Pulitzer Prize winners Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith about the travails involved in restoring a 20,000 square foot 60 room southern mansion. More about the house and book can be found here.
posted by TedW at 9:17 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Orson Scott Card has a fantasy book about it that is actually pretty good. I am on my phone right now and cant look up the title but will as soon as i can. (It was written after enders game but before his reecent douchebaggery).
posted by bartonlong at 9:22 AM on October 9, 2012

Not a novel but Around the House by David Owen is a collection of his essays from Home Magazine about his 200-year-old house and his attempts at renovation.
posted by hmo at 9:24 AM on October 9, 2012

The Bucolic Plague, a memoir, is about a couple that buy a 200-year-old mansion in upstate New York and try to transform it into a permanent home and working farm. Quite charming.
posted by stellaluna at 9:40 AM on October 9, 2012

I think John Crowley's Little, Big has a happy ending, but it's been a while since I read it. Anyway, house restoration is part of the plot.
posted by hattifattener at 9:41 AM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Shelter Me by Juliette Fay involves a house addition rather than restoration, but it otherwise fits your criteria.
posted by Flannery Culp at 10:22 AM on October 9, 2012

Mickelsson's Ghosts by John Gardner involves renovations of a house... oh, you wanted a happy ending... then stay away from this one.
posted by bdc34 at 10:39 AM on October 9, 2012

The title of the novel by Orson Scott Card is Homebody.
posted by bartonlong at 10:56 AM on October 9, 2012

Orson Scott Card has a fantasy book about it that is actually pretty good. I am on my phone right now and cant look up the title but will as soon as i can. (It was written after enders game but before his reecent douchebaggery).
I think you're thinking of Homebody. To be honest, I thought it was kind of bad, even though I was an Orson Scott Card fan when I read it.

Fixer-Upper is a fairly cute chick-lit story.
posted by Kriesa at 11:00 AM on October 9, 2012

Practically perfect, by Katie Fforde.
posted by Ms. Next at 11:49 AM on October 9, 2012

"Mel" by Liz Berry is a YA novel from the late 80s/early 90s in which the protagonist spends the novel restoring her home in anticipation of her mum coming home. It is .. not very good and it gets awfully sappy and far-fetched quite early on .. but it does meet the criteria!
posted by kariebookish at 11:58 AM on October 9, 2012

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (disclaimer: I didn't like it very much).
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:58 PM on October 9, 2012

I haven't read any of these myself, but I know from the bookstore where I work that home repair is an increasingly popular theme in cozy mysteries (I think they have finally run out of recipes.) Anyway! I found this list and perhaps some of these will fit the bill.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:41 PM on October 9, 2012

I like "Homebody" by Card too. My first read, I thought it was just okay, but the second time I read it I really enjoyed it.

It's not "happy" throughout - it is a sort of supernatural drama - but the ending is not bleak or depressing.
posted by tacodave at 4:36 PM on October 9, 2012

Nora Robert's Midnight Bayou:
Determined to restore dilapidated Manet Hall to its former splendor, Declan Fitzgerald begins the daunting renovation room by room. But the days spent in total isolation in the empty house take a toll. Only the companionship of alluring Angelina Simone can distract him from the mysterious happenings in the house.
posted by geek anachronism at 6:22 PM on October 9, 2012

Not a novel, but it reads like one: House, by Tracy Kidder

Which is about.....wait for it.......builidng a house.
the story is told from two perspectives: That of the skilled contractors and craftsmen who take enormous pride in their work, and that of the new-to-construction homeowners who are deeply afraid of being ripped of by shady contractors.

That may be painting it a bit too heavily, but not by much.
It is a fascinating read.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:43 PM on October 9, 2012

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton might fit the bill. The garden gets the most attention but I think an attached cottage may have been restored as well.
posted by Pistache at 6:44 PM on October 9, 2012

So sad about your happy ending requirement. Allison Bechdel's Fun Home has some great house restoration themes, but isn't a happy ending book.
posted by colin_l at 10:51 PM on October 9, 2012

Extra Virgin, a lovely and hilarious memoir by Annie Hawes, about the attempts of two British sisters to restore a falling-down Italian farmhouse. Made me laugh out loud in parts.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:45 AM on October 10, 2012

Thanks, all. The best fit with what I needed was Fixer-Upper.
posted by paduasoy at 11:59 AM on October 29, 2012

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