Heather Glen praises the novels of Elizabeth Gaskell, now released in a new scholarly edition. I heartily endorse the Gaskell thing, I had always loved Mary Barton and then I read and loved North and South at some point during the college years and then in grad school the one that really blew my mind was the quite excellent Wives and Daughters (which I am now experiencing a burning desire to reread); the other full-length fictions are interesting, but maybe especially worth reading is the rather novelistic (in a good way) Life of Charlotte Bronte.
Hardly a moment for light reading round here, very unfortunate, but I did read a couple novels over the weekend, one quite reasonable though I am not in favor of the multiple-first-person-narrator scheme & I felt the ending was rather pat (that's Patricia McKillip's Solstice Wood) and one really very bad, almost so trashy that it wasn't enjoyable to read at all--it's terribly Orientalist sort-of-Victorian fantasy stuff, it's a pity because it just misses being really perfect light reading only in practice it is so disgustingly badly written under-the-sign-of-Kipling-but-with-magic that I was really for once actually embarrassed to be reading it. (This is the book if you're curious. The thing it made me want to reread is a book I absolutely adored as a child, I ritually reread it every two years when we visited my grandparents in London, Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill and the sequel Rewards and Fairies. It seems that there is a one-volume Oxford World's Classics edition only it is now out of print...)