Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Book Review - Unmentionable The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage and Manners

Therese Oneill's book Unmentionable The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage and Manners is a fun light hearted read. One of those books you pick up and read a chapter, giggle a bit and put aside for some amusement another day. It will burst many idealized views of the Victorian era something which Horrible Histories has been doing for a while. The nice thing about this books is that it focuses on women and their plights.

It strips away much of the glamour that is shown in the standard movie set during the Victorian times. Most of the movies show the people as looking very glamourous in their dress and freshly bathed. Both these things were not really part of the Victorian life. Therese Oneill gets down to much of the nitty gritty about a Victorian life, lack of clean water being a big part of that. People very seldom bathed and their general cleanliness or lack there of would make most of us shudder. We must always remember they did not have the general conveniences of running water let alone showers.

She also covers menstruation, cosmetics, undergarments and the many perils connected with them. Each of these things could result in sickness and perhaps even death. Often women were institutionalized when they suffered from maladies of womanhood, though this was a method more affluent society used to deal with their women. Women of the working class had to learn how to deal with strenous labour, being responsible for the running of the household and during this have multiple children. Once you start studying any era, class distinction becomes an important part of it. Therese's use of historical publications through their pictures and ads is a humourous addition to many of the chapters.

A fun addition to my collection of fashion related books as many of them are very textbook like. This is a more accessible book to the average reader(someone who isn't fascinated with the history of textile mills) as long as you are ok with the humour and snarkiness it contains. The chapter titles reveal a lot about the book - The Treacherous Art of Bathing, Being a Good Wife: How to Avoid His Eventual Resentment for as Long as Possible, Public Behaviour:Avoiding Scorn, Dangers and Museums just being some examples. This was a wonderful book to take with me on transit as it is perfect for reading in snippets, and not so acedemic that being surrounded by distractions is a problem.

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