I was making a list of books I'd like to read over the next few months before my trip to the library this afternoon and I decided to create my list around a theme (as I have done loosely a few times before, reading Sylvia Plath's poems and journals together, reading a few James Joyce books before heading to Dublin, finishing all the Jane Austen novels.) and the theme I chose was "The Domestic Sphere." I love love love reading novels set in domestic spaces and featuring ordinary (or seemingly ordinary) lives. These are books I read over and over again.
I chose five books for my list, although there are many other wonderful choices. The first three books are new to me, and the last two are favorites that I haven't looked at in a while.
The Careful Use of Compliments by Alexander McCall Smith is part of the Isabel Dalhousie mystery series. I have read the three previous books and enjoyed them quite a bit. Isabel is a philosopher and edits a philosophy journal from her home in Edinburgh, Scotland. Oh, and she solves mysteries that have philisophical implications, too! You may recognize Alexander McCall Smith as the author of the popular No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series.
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell is a book that I've been meaning to read for a long time. I love the BBC series and I'm sure I'll love the novel even more. It involves a small community of ladies in an equally small town and their domestic lives including, "new knitting stitches, crochet comissions, potpourri and clove-stuck apples, sea green, silver-grey and maize silks, and the relative merit of plain-work, wool-work, and fancywork."
Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther is a novel that I know very little about. I have read that it's full of period details and English domesticity (which is enough to make me want to pick it up!).
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen is my favorite Jane Austen novel. Favorite. I've read it more times than all the others. Most readers seem to flock to Pride and Predjudice and Elizabeth Bennet, but I am totally charmed by Fanny Price. And I love reading about the social interactions in a limited neighborhood, all the complicated signals and relationships, and Fanny's struggle to do the right thing.
A Simple Heart by Gustave Flaubert is by far the shortest book at only sixty-four pages, but it is an amazing story. It shares the life of a French housemaid named Felicite who endures many losses, but finds comfort in life's simple rhythms.
I wanted to check out They Knew Mr. Knight, and At Mrs. Lippincote's, too, but the library did not have them (drat!). I will keep them on my wish list for now.
Do you have any favorite domestic novels? I'd love to hear about them and add them to my wish list!