- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (October 25, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 031635791X
- ISBN-13: 978-0316357913
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (186 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners Hardcover – October 25, 2016
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"Hysterically funny and unsettlingly fascinating. This book is full of awesome."―Jenny Lawson, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Let's Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously Happy
"If Unmentionable does not secure the Pulitzer Prize for Most Fascinating Book Ever, the whole gig is rigged. Hilarious, horrifying, shocking and revelatory, this book is for every girl who pictured herself running through a field of wildflowers in a silk dress and Little House on the Prairie boots, only to discover she has nits in her hair, her clothes have never been washed and she sleeps with her poop under her bed in a bowl. A miracle of a book and one of my favorite reads ever, Unmentionable will be my go-to gift this year. All hail Therese Oneill for uncovering all of that dirty, dirty laundry."―Laurie Notaro, #1 New York Times bestselling author of It Looked Different on the Model and Housebroken
"Oneill uncovers the filthy, untidy, licentious conditions of nineteenth-century women's lives that novelists of the period often glossed over...brilliantly conveyed with fascinating illustrations."―Elle
"Oneill has created a book so excellently informative about the Victorian period, it should be shelved right next to Dickens for reference. Your stomach will hurt so much from laughing, you'll be thankful you're not wearing a corset."―Princess Weekes, Bustle
"It's hard to imagine a woman - or a teenage girl - who won't love this book."―Caitlin Flanagan, Washington Post
"A fascinating look into the shocking pseudoscience of the 1800s, in which Oneill sheds new light on the origins of today's misogyny, double standards, and just plain mystery surrounding women that, maddeningly enough, persist."―Booklist
"Unmentionable transports us back to the world of middle-class 19th-century women, with special emphasis on the messy details that costume dramas airbrush out. . . . With a 4-year-old's scatological glee, Oneill details the logistics of old-time peeing, pooping, gestating, menstruating and mating . . . lovely tidbits from the dustbin of history."―New York Times
"Rich with information that will amuse and sometimes horrify... the playful application of language makes the horrendous plight of Victorian women palatable to modern audiences. Oneill succeeds in making otherwise dry information (the proper order of eating utensils, the development of modern sanitation) sparkle."―The Guardian
"Flat-out hysterical (and occasionally alarming)...Read it and be very, very glad you're a woman of modern times."―Good Housekeeping
"If you've ever felt like you should have been born in another time, Unmentionable will disabuse you of that sensibility, and it will do so charmingly . . . The book transmits a wealth of historical research in a cheerfully tongue-in-cheek tone and an impressive collection of archival photos."―Vice/Broadly
"A treasure trove of bizarre and fascinating information."―Bustle (Best Nonfiction Books of 2016)
"Oneill writes from the perspective of an all-knowing, slightly cheeky Victorian woman giving guidance to the contemporary woman. The result is a thoroughly researched but hilarious look into daily life of the Victorian woman."―The Millions
"A down-and-dirty perusal of the realities of hygiene and womanhood in the Victorian era. The truth behind slimming corsets, virtuous nuptials, and strict morals is sometimes shocking, occasionally alarming, but always funny with Oneill's wry commentary."―Library Journal, Editors Fall Pick
"A quick, hilarious romp through the gritty unmentionable details that literature fails to discuss--those of the most intimate nature. . . . Oneill's delight in her subject is endearing. She delivers even the most disturbing facts, like how drinking wells and sewage were placed close to each other, in entertaining ways. Yet Oneill's stories are not without depth. Throughout Unmentionable, she notes how far feminism and related movements have come from the constrictions of Victorian ideologies."―Shelf Awareness
"Oneill is our sarcastic 'tour guide to the real nineteenth century' in this cheeky romp of a book. She's here to tell you, ladies, that what you think you know is all wrong. . . . If you're seeking a witty life coach, look no further."―Kirkus (This Season's Best Gift Books, 2016)
"Between wisecracks and clever one-liners, Oneill reveals the misogynistic underbelly of the Victorian era and how harmful and antiquated theories about female biology, sexuality, and emotions persist to this day. I can't recommend this book highly enough."―BookRiot
"It's clear in every page of Unmentionable that Oneill has done her research on what the Victorian lady was expected to tackle, from dinner-party etiquette to arsenic as skin care. . . . the vagaries of courtship, running a household, and taking a bath fall under a modern and distinctly snarky lens."―NPR.org
About the Author
Therese Oneill lives in Oregon and writes humor and rare history articles for many different popular outlets, including Mental Floss, The Week, The Atlantic, and Jezebel. She lives with her husband and children near Portland. She can be found online at www.writerthereseoneill.com where she runs a popular history and narrative blog.
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Top Customer Reviews
To break this down quickly, yes, this is mainly a history of everyday Victorian life, from waking up to getting ready to social interaction, with bits about the society at all levels, from poverty-stricken to well-to-do upper-middle class. And I bet that there are so many kinds of books like this out there, and there are since I've read a few great ones, but this one just stands out. Not for its in-depth recitation of all the facts concerning Victorian life, but rather for the truly hilarious presentation of the information to the reader. And it is hilarious.
The story, or rather the Intro, starts out as the reader (you, who is also identified as female) approaches the author (an omnipotent, time-traveler) that allows the reader to go back to the Victorian age to experience the life of a glamorous, wealthy Victorian woman (just like in her fave historical fiction fantasies), searching for love in all the wrong places.
However, as the reader comes to learn, the Victorian age wasn't all gorgeous gowns, balls and galas, and a high-society true-love stories. Good God, no. With issues of basic sanitation being at an all-time low, no working plumbing, horse (and other) excrement piled high in the streets, absolutely no personal female rights, an incredibly judgmental class system that constantly worked against you if you have a uterus, abysmal medical care, and more, the reader slowly begins to understand that the Victorian appeal is so overrated and hidden behind rose-tinted glasses. But the best part of it all, is that the author delivers all this information with perfect comedic timing and outrageous sarcasm. Honestly, I've been reading this book out loud to myself and have cracked up laughing at the little zingers and one-liners hidden away in the text! I've already read over half the book in one night, it was that good and funny. I can't wait to read the rest of it soon.
As for the personal recommendation to another reader, if you like historical facts that may border on the bizarre and almost unbelievable, try out this book. If you like a book that is light-hearted and witty, try out this book today. If you like history with a funny narrative, creative imagery, and just want to sit back and have fun with a book, then try this book right now. Go on, get it!
However, just to play the advocate, if you are looking for a historical reference with more research, more detail, and more bite for your particular hunger, then definitely look at "How to Be A Victorian" by Ruth Goodman. Ruth Goodman is an esteemed historian that really tries on the shoes of her historical figures, wearing the clothing, making the recipes, doing the everyday work and labor that sustains the lifetstyles in the books she writes. Her Victorian book (as well as her Tudor book) offer a wealth of information concerning literally everything that involves living and working in a certain time period. If you want a genuinely toothy history book to reference, check out Ruth Goodman. She's amazing.
I am beyond thankful for our foremothers that had the strength to fight for improving the lot of all women. I am also exceedingly thankful for hypo-allergenic makeup, the ladies' aisle in the grocery store, showers, indoor plumbing that flushes, toilet paper, the ability to wear pants, and not to have to wear crotchless underwear under my skirts to so I can use a chamber pot with fewer issues.