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Vintage/nostalgic style fiction around sewing/homemaking theme?

(27 Posts)
Lightswitches Mon 29-Jun-20 23:59:37

I'm looking to buy some fiction, of vintage style ilk but based around something lighthearted such as clothes or haberdashery or homemaking or shop girls in the 50s or 60s.

Looking to choose something new for my mum, but she has read most of the nursing/midwife/wartime ones out there and wants something cosier than war or nursing as the main theme - such as people making their own dresses to go out dancing and kitchen-sink type family drama, that kind of thing. She grew up in the 50s and 60s so I think she'd enjoy a nostalgic feel-good read from that time period.

Probably not explaining myself well here but any suggestions would be welcome!

OP’s posts: |
EliotBliss Tue 30-Jun-20 00:44:24

Someone's bound to come along with better suggestions...but meanwhile no totally what you asked for but in the ball-park and entertaining:

Dorothy Whipple’s High Wages

Monica Dickens’s One Pair of Hands - not quite the topic but quite fun

Winifred Peck House-Bound

E. M. Delafield The Diary of a Provincial Lady

Also have a look here

Might also look at novels by writers like Mary Wesley, Dodie Smith, Jane Gardam and Stella Gibbons. There's also a publisher called Furrowed Middlebrow, they reprint a lot of vintage novels for women from the 30s, 40s and 50s mainly, and they may have something that suits. If you look online they have a website or can search by publisher on sites like Amazon.

Lightswitches Tue 30-Jun-20 09:55:19

Thank you so much for your reply! Some great recommendations there. I've got The Diary of a Provincial Lady but Mum hasn't read it yet. Likewise Dorothy Whipple. I've read some of the Persephone books - (some of these are great, if you haven't come across them).

I guess what I really have in mind though (I didn't make myself clear AT ALL! grin) is contemporary/current written fiction but with cosy (not misery) vintage, sewing or homemaking themes, rather than books actually written in the 30s/40s/50s/60s.

Eg The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets - this is set in past times but was written in the current era. This was good and Mum enjoyed it but I'm looking for something even cosier than that.

I've seen a book called Haberdashery which looks like it might partly be along the lines of what I'm thinking, at least in terms of sewing rather than misery grin

Basically I'm looking for nice nostalgic feel-good reads that have something other than just love and sex as the main themes (ie not books which are only based around racy affairs and/or drippy love stories) and definitely nothing that says "heartbreaking" as part of the blurb!

Also not forgettable holiday reads like "Penny moves to the seaside to escape her empty nest, she's not looking for husband No 4 but who is the tall dark handsome cafe owner twinkling at her in the corner" or "Lucy and Jen start a book club but when Miranda the newcomer joins and starts putting suggestions forward, all hell breaks loose! Can Lucy and Jen ever agree on the next title again?"

(Perhaps I should just write the book I want to read if I'm so picky?! grin)

OP’s posts: |
EliotBliss Tue 30-Jun-20 11:01:52

Can’t really help you with any of that, not my kind of book at all…the nearest I can think of is something like The Women in Black by Madeleine St John, saw the movie and fits the bill…other than that there are lists of books set in the 50s on Goodreads, and you could google ‘fluffy’ or ‘cosy’ reads set in the 50s, as those are the adjectives that are most often appended to the kind of books you’re describing…

VWGolfmk2 Tue 30-Jun-20 11:09:46

The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie.
Lovely story following a family tale using a singer sewing machine as the central theme connecting the generations. Think there's a nursing sub theme in there too if I'm remembering correctly.

evilharpy Tue 30-Jun-20 11:10:47

I haven't read these but have seen some on Amazon called The Butlins Girls and The Woolworths Girls, might she like those? It looks like they do have some sort of love interest theme though. It might be hard to find any that don't.

Limpid Tue 30-Jun-20 11:13:56

Angela Huth's Land Girls?

Medianoche Tue 30-Jun-20 11:15:22

You could try the Jennifer Chiaverini. Hope I’ve spelled that right. American fiction about a group of quilters and their lives. There are some history flashback ones too. There are loads of them - I ploughed through at least a dozen a few years back when I needed something mellow to read.

Ellmau Tue 30-Jun-20 15:38:53

Not new, but has your DM read Miss Read's Thrush Green series? They sound like the right tone.

Lightswitches Tue 30-Jun-20 16:38:56

Thank you all so much for kindly taking the time to give suggestions! flowers They all sound like brilliant suggestions and just the sort of things she'd love to read. A real mix of nostalgia and gentle drama and she's not at all adverse to a love story/interest, but just to have an extra element such as sewing/land girls/shop girls/country sort of background will definitely be her cup of tea. I'll get researching them tonight!

OP’s posts: |
MockneyReject Tue 30-Jun-20 16:58:03

I love this, but you've probably already considered it.

Pelleas Tue 30-Jun-20 17:02:42

Edwina Currie's 'She's Leaving Home' was one I enjoyed - there's a lot about an apprentice tailor in it if your mum is into sewing. It's fiction but inspired by Edwina's childhood as a Jewish girl growing up in Merseyside.

Blackcountryexile Tue 30-Jun-20 17:53:48

The Future Homemakers of America and the sequel The Early Birds by Laurie Graham might be worth looking at @Lightswitches. They are about a group of friends who meet on a US army base in Norfolk in the 1950's and the sequel follows them up 50 years later.

NathanNathan Tue 30-Jun-20 18:00:29

Some Penelope Lively? May not be specifically on the theme enough.

cdtaylornats Tue 30-Jun-20 18:02:35

Elizabeth Lynn Casey's Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries the first one is Sew Deadly

PhantomErik Tue 30-Jun-20 18:03:15

Has she read Elizabeth Elgin books? They're all based around Yorkshire during WW2 (think there are 1 or 2 about WW1).

I know you said not wars/romance which these are a bit but they're mostly the families/gardening/make do & mend/land girls/farm work etc.

They're really good & strangely comforting.

AGoodYearfortheRoses Tue 30-Jun-20 18:07:10

The Shop Girls by Elee Seymour was a good read I thought and sounds as though it would tick your boxes - it’s set in a department store in Cambridge although I can’t remember if it’s actually fiction or not.

Miss Read definitely worth a try too as a pp suggested.

highlandcoo Tue 30-Jun-20 19:33:20

Not set in the UK but the Adriana Trigiani novels focusing on Italian families in the US have that sort of feel about them. Also her Big Stone Gap series.

There's the Penny Vincenzi Spoils of Time trilogy, a family saga intertwined with a publishing business.

And I think your mum would love the Cazalet Chronicles if she hasn't already read them. Maybe not quite as cosy as you're describing but an absorbing family saga beginning after WWI and stretching over decades

And James Herriot's vet series is light-hearted reading.

Lightswitches Tue 30-Jun-20 21:04:43

Thanks so much for all the latest suggestions! Absolutely brilliant. These all sound like the sort of thing that would appeal, so many ideas. Spoilt for choice! I knew you clever lot would come up trumps! flowers

I'm putting together a list for a trip to the local bookshop. They have a wide selection but will order in any they haven't got in stock already. I'm fairly sure I'll end up buying all most of them! smile

OP’s posts: |
Feawen Tue 30-Jun-20 21:34:15

Try D E Stevenson - I especially enjoyed Miss Buncle’s Book.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a day - nice things happen very unexpectedly to a worn-down governess in the 1930s.

SylviasMotherSaid Tue 30-Jun-20 21:45:30

Angela Thirkells books are lovely cosy reads especially High Rising .

Yellowlobelia Thu 02-Jul-20 13:21:05

Angela Thirkell can be a bit Marmite. She's funny, but the snobbery is excruciating.

D3poster Fri 03-Jul-20 13:36:20


Your mum might like a Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier - set in the 1930's with a subplot about a sewing group making kneelers for Winchester Cathedral

CromfordGreyhound Fri 03-Jul-20 20:10:57

Secrets of the Sewing Bee by Kate Thompson?

Or a non-fiction suggestion-'Threads of Life' by Clare Hunter. Its a history of the world through the eye of a needle. A bit different but as part history, part memoir it maybe worth considering?

Lightswitches Sat 04-Jul-20 17:35:13

Thank you for the new suggestions too! flowers I haven't heard of those (or most of the ones on this thread either) so I'm really happy to have so many to look into. I'm sure Mum will love most if not all of these. Adding them all to the (growing) list for a closer look!

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