Winter Is Coming, Fetch Me My Novel.
September 9, 2011 12:51 PM   Subscribe

Cozy winter reading suggestions, please! Bonus points for books that won't make me hurl.

I have an embarrassing soft spot for the novels of Rosamunde Pilcher, particularly during the winter months. It's mostly her domestic details ... I can read something like The Shell Seekers and almost see the room she's describing. Ditto with gardens and meals.

However, I'm a hard-hearted broad and basically wouldn't care if the last sentence was "And then they all died in a fire."

Given these contradictory parameters, can you suggest decently-written domesticish novels that aren't too schmoopy? Jane Austen's a go-to, but Belva Plain makes me physically ill. Thank you!
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Hula by Lisa Shea is one of my favorites (gorgeous, dark).
posted by heyho at 1:01 PM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

In a Perfect World?
posted by Ideal Impulse at 1:02 PM on September 9, 2011

Anything by Nicci French. It's a husband & wife writing team. Start with Killing Me Softly. You won't be able to put it down.
posted by essexjan at 1:03 PM on September 9, 2011

I'd also recommend Bastard Out of Carolina if you haven't read it.
posted by heyho at 1:06 PM on September 9, 2011

Diana Gabaldon if you can handle a little time traveling mixed in with your description.

A little grimmer but very well written: Elizabeth George.

Start with their first novels . . see what you think.
posted by bearwife at 1:09 PM on September 9, 2011

Maybe Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson.
posted by mattbucher at 1:09 PM on September 9, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so far ... although I can't see curling up with Bastard Out of Carolina and a cup of tea! (It's an interesting work, but not my definition of "comfort reading.")
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 1:21 PM on September 9, 2011

I seem to remember reading somewhere that Edith Wharton's novels are full of little domestic details like that. I've never read anything of hers so I can't vouch personally.

I do remember that The Little Princess had that sort of cozy effect on me, in the descriptions of Sara's room.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 1:39 PM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I Capture The Castle definitely, if you haven't read it. The tastes of the Persephone Classics folks would suit you- Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day is a good one. 
posted by Erasmouse at 1:40 PM on September 9, 2011

Hmm, I read a lot of domestic fiction but haven't read RP. so apols if this isn't right. What about Carol Shields? You could start with Happenstance - there's an excerpt on her site. Anne Tyler? I find AT a bit depressing but my tolerance of sentiment and happy endings is almost certainly higher than yours, so she may work for you. If these are no good, please say and I'll see if I can think of anything else.
posted by paduasoy at 1:42 PM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Little House on the Prairie books are chock-full of cozy domestic details, and hold up very well to adult scrutiny. Bring on the flatirons, butter churns and slate pencils!
posted by mynameisluka at 1:43 PM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Barbara Pym’s "Excellent Women": "[A] novel about a woman named Mildred Lathbury who is living in London in the 1950s. A self-proclaimed spinster, virtuous almost to a fault, intelligent, and entirely without family, Mildred is alone and content to be so. ... However, as Mildred herself notes, “An unmarried woman, just over thirty, who lives alone and has no apparent ties, must expect to find herself involved or interested in other people’s business” (p. 5). And so upon her too-comfortable existence enter a host of unsettling and decidedly unvirtuous characters."
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:50 PM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's not a novel, but there's a decent chance you might enjoy Letters of a Woman Homesteader.
posted by desertface at 2:00 PM on September 9, 2011

I find early to mid Margaret Drabble quite absorbing in sort of the way you describe.
posted by BibiRose at 2:01 PM on September 9, 2011

My go-to besides the Little House on the Prairie books (mentioned above) would be Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
posted by Sassyfras at 2:04 PM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

ooh, I also love A Place in the Woods by Helen Hoover.
posted by Sassyfras at 2:14 PM on September 9, 2011

A friend and I find the Mitford novels to be a guilty pleasure--a small-town world where everyone is good at heart and everything works out for the best, with enough plot and character development to pull you in and keep you engaged.
posted by not that girl at 2:18 PM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

The books of L.M. Montgomery (in particular: the entire Anne series, The Blue Castle, the Pat series) are rife with domestic detail.

I also found Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence to have the sort of cozy domesticity that you describe.
posted by millions of peaches at 2:42 PM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Somewhere between 'guilty pleasure' and 'cozy mysteries': just about any of Charlotte MacLeod's books.
posted by easily confused at 2:45 PM on September 9, 2011

Louise Penny's mysteries fit the bill: start at STILL LIFE and move on from there. Chief Inspector Gamache will steal your heart. I loved him so much that I almost spent $60+ to order two Gamache mugs shipped from Quebec but stopped myself in the nick of time.
posted by lois1950 at 3:16 PM on September 9, 2011

If you like Pilcher (I do too) you might also like Maeve Binchy. Her newer novels are a little hit or miss, but earlier ones like "Echoes" do what I think you're looking for. Victoria Clayton is another favorite of mine, though her books are a little harder to come by.
posted by OolooKitty at 7:07 PM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

2nding Barbara Pym. "Excellent Women" is a good start, but I've never been disappointed by any of her work. Very similar to Austen in certain ways. Just thinking about her makes me want a cup of tea!
posted by sideofwry at 8:35 PM on September 9, 2011

I think Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is a wonderful, joyful, comforting book with beautiful writing. (Much, much better than the movie.)
posted by SLC Mom at 8:55 PM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

My most favorite wintery book of all time is Mark Helprin's "Winter's Tale". It is so descriptive (of scenery, emotionally feelings, concepts) that I wish I could hire this guy to tell me bedtime stories. And beyond the overall cozy winteryness, it's a fucking great book as well! It does contain some magical realism, but unless you absolutely HATE that, I would still give it a go. I try to read it every winter. It's a truly magical journey that spans both space and time. Please read it :)
posted by jitterbug perfume at 10:11 PM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See is loaded with (to me) fascinating domesticity, including foot binding (it's set in 19th century China) which makes me the reader shiver at the thought of enduring, then burrow down in the blankets flexing my great big feet. The ending is sad but so beautiful. ...I bought the book intending it for a Christmas present for my mom, then started peeking at the first page... then the first few... then a chapter... and then I had to get another gift for mom because I couldn't let go of this book. I've read it at least six times so far. In winter. :)
posted by tomboko at 7:54 AM on September 10, 2011

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