The Top 5 ’50s Housewife Books: Trashy Novels Edition

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And — drumroll, please — it is time for the 2nd installment of ’50s housewife books. I had several requests for a list of vintage fiction — and there is a lot. So, I broke it down further into genre lists. This one is the trashy-novels edition! Here, for your enjoyment, are 5 of my favorite trashy vintage novels for the modern-day ’50s housewife.

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What Makes a Trashy Novel?

Mostly luridness. None of these are going to be quite like A Song of Fire and Ice or Wizard’s First Rule or Outlander. Honestly, I can’t even with modern trashy novels. Really. I did leave out anything that is really sci-fi or fantasy — those have their own lists.

1. The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins

Harold Robbins is a muchness of the mid-century trashy novel authors. He wrote 26 exceptionally popular pot-boilers in his day. This one is my favorite.

The Carpetbaggers is about early Hollywood lifestyles of the rich and powerful. Drama and lustiness ensue.

You can get a reprint of this book from Amazon, or track down a vintage copy on eBay.

2. Peyton Place by Grace Metalious

This one probably needs a trigger warning. It’s a little dark, a little painful. But it is a classic trashy novel (there’s an oxymoron for you!) about women stifled by their mid-century lives, and the consequences of their dissatisfaction.

You can get a reprint of this one on Amazon, too.

3. The Southerners by Edna Lee

I found this one through my vintage magazine collection. It was printed as a serial. I really liked it then, and I still do. I haven’t read her other novels, but she seems to do “gothic southern fiction” in all of them.

The Southerners is a slightly gothic tales of an illegitimate daughter and her life. There’s a lot of tragedy, but the heroine is one of my favorite strong female characters, always coping with tragedy without losing her charm.

Sometimes you can get this one on Amazon or eBay, but as far as I know, it hasn’t been reprinted.

4. Katherine by Anya Seton

I am not sure whether this should be in romance, historical fiction, or here. But I like it best as a trashy novel. This is the story of a historical love affair between Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt. With lots of intrigue, because English royalty.

Reprints are available on Amazon. (If you like this one, a modern author I recommend VERY highly is Sharon Kay Penman.)

5. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

This is the ultimate, classic trashy novel. It is famous more for the shameless marketing instincts of Jacqueline Susann than for the quality of the story. But you cannot have a trashy novel list for a 50s housewife WITHOUT THIS BOOK. Trigger warnings for vintage sex, vintage drug use, and all-around trashy diva behavior, tho.

Reprints on Amazon.

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What Are Your Top 5 ’50s Housewife Trashy Novels & Guilty Pleasures?

As I said above, I really am not into modern fiction. I find it gory, over-sensual, and unecessarily evocative. The golden age of trashy novels was the 1980s and 1990s. But I do have favorites in several different genres from the mid-century, which I will put up in the near future!

In the meantime, if you read any of my top 5 trashy novels for your ’50s housewifely thrills, please let me know what you think!

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