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BunWat

Bun's Books

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All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation
Rebecca Traister
Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England - Judith Flanders I thoroughly enjoyed a lot of this book. I think the device of organizing the information around the various rooms of a house worked pretty well. Much of the information was really fascinating. The chapters about the kitchen and scullery particularly engaged me. I find it very difficult to believe that anyone would actually have done laundry like that. Madness!

However as the book went on I started to get a niggling feeling that the author had a bit of an attitude about some of the people she was quoting. She clearly disliked Mrs Beeton for example. Which is fine, Beeton doesn't seem particularly likeable. But after awhile I really started to feel uncomfortable about the number of sarky little asides. After awhile longer I started to wonder if Flanders wasn't leaning a little too far toward dismissing the evidence of people she didn't much like or identify with. A little too much of "this is clearly nonsense," when as far as I could tell it wasn't any more clearly nonsense than other things that were not given the same treatment.

It wasn't blatant, it wasn't enough to prevent me from as I said, thoroughly enjoying big parts of this book. I do respect the sheer volume of research and hard work involved in gathering together the many details that make this so interesting. Its reasonable even, that spending a lot of time reading Victorian publications and personal papers would leave you with feelings about the people with whom you'd spent so much time.

But still. Maybe it was just a matter of her trying to avoid writing a dry history, and in that she did succeed, this is very lively and readable. But there's a line between lively and catty and she walked pretty close to it at times. Which was bothersome enough that I am not sure I'm going to believe some of what I read here without cross checking it elsewhere. I suppose that's always a good practice.