Sunday, August 28, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge ~ Book #32

I very much enjoy reading books about housekeeping, so I expected very much to enjoy The Gentle Art of Domesticity: Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art & the Comforts of Home by Jane Brocket. However, I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I tried to love it ~ I really did ~ but I just didn't, though it did grow on me somewhat as I read my way through it.

The positives of this book were the lay-out, colors, and chatty tone. It's at least half pictures, so it reads a lot faster than most 275-page books. I'm guessing that it's a compilation of posts from the author's blog, Yarnstorm (are blog titles italicized or put in quotation marks? That's something I definitely didn't learn in junior high grammar classes!). If it's not, it certainly was written to read that way. The result is that it's an easy book to browse around in and read in short snippets. I can see going to this book for a quick, rainy-day pick-me-up.

After about a hundred pages, however, the colors began to seem garish, at least to me, a lover of subtle, refined, and calm hues. But what grated on my nerves the most was the author's snootiness about everything from flower bulbs to yarn brands to chocolatiers. I couldn't imagine her stepping foot inside a Jo-Ann Fabrics store, perusing the pages of a Gurney's catalog, or ever eating a good ol' Hershey's Kiss. The book was full of designer this and designer that. She admits to her fussiness, but her admission did little to ameloriate the bad vibes such snobbery created between her book and me. Brocket seemed to have no financial limits. I'm glad for her, but most of us don't have seemingly unlimited resources and can't hop on a plane to go yarn shopping in upscale New York yarnshops. What this book did for me was to help me recognize how much I appreciate resourceful homemakers who can create beauty and comfort for their families with limited means. Almost anyone can do it with a blank check, but it takes real skill and creativity to do it within a limited budget. It's those homemakers I admire the most.

To be fair, the author considers herself a domestic artist; I consider myself a homemaker. Her emphasis is on her own artistic self-expression while mine is on creating and maintaining a comfortable space that serves my family. That doesn't mean that Brocket doesn't care about her family's space or that I don't care about beauty and creativity, but we each put the accent on a different syllable of the same word. She's certainly allowed to view homemaking differently than I do, but her book didn't speak to me like Phyllis McGinley's Sixpence in Her Shoe or Margaret Kim Peterson's Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life. I will return The Gentle Art of Domesticity to the library with little regret.

If you loved this book, please share your reasons in the comments. Maybe I'm missing something!


  1. I've been meaning to respond to this. I agree that McGinley and Peterson's books were more thought provoking. Every time I read them I think more deeply about *why* I do what I do and *how* that works out on a daily basis. Brocket's book is very different. I enjoy similar activities and novels so those parts were fun. She is much more creative than I am and so I think I'm mostly inspired by her creativity. Her bright colors are fun to look at but I couldn't live with most of them. All in all, it is a fun book to dip into now and again but not one to live by, if that makes sense. I have to run and start school now but wanted to get back to this first. Have a grand day!

  2. Yes, well said! "It is a fun book to dip into now and again but not one to live by" ~ wish I had said that! Thanks for clarifying that for me.


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