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The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed Paperback – August 2, 2004

4.7 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

'Judith Flanders is the Mary Poppins of academic toil. "Spit spot", she says, and suddenly you have...amusing information...the delight of this book is the intelligence and freshness of its inferences.' Lynne Truss, Sunday Times 'A God-among-loo-books...here, the past is not so much a foreign country as another planet...there is not a single piece of trivia here that I don't feel better for knowing.' Time Out 'An enthralling, entertaining and thought-provoking revelation of the realities of life in the tall, thin, Victorian town house.' Evening Standard 'This book is a splendidly entertaining read, and it also breaks new ground. No one has ever written so interestingly or wittily about housework.' Spectator 'Rich and well ordered, this study casts brilliant light...Curious facts tumble from the pages.' Economist

About the Author

Judith Flanders is the author of critically acclaimed 'A Circle of Sisters' (2001) - a biography of Alice Kipling, Georgiana Burne-Jones, Agnes Poynder and Louisa Baldwin - which was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award, and 'Consuming Passions: Leisure and Pleasure in Victorian England' (2006). She is a frequent contributor to the 'Daily Telegraph', the 'Guardian', the 'Evening Standard', and the TLS.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPerennial; New Ed edition (August 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007131895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007131891
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #235,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful survey of British social history in the 1800s - how people actually lived their lives day to day. Drawing from every possible historical source, the author describes what life was like for well-to-do Brits in the Victorian era, with a particular emphasis on London. Her theme is to take the reader through an upper-crust house room by room: One chapter on the kitchen, one on the scullery, one on the parlour, and so on. I found it utterly fascinating.

Victorian England is not exactly ancient history, yet it is amazing how different life was then, and how unpleasant (by our standards) life was even for the wealthy. For instance, people tolerated incredible filth. Even among the well-to-do, coal dust coated every interior surface, clothing was heavy and dirty, and baths were infrequent. London fogs were so thick that pedestrians would bump into things. Food was extremely bland even for the elite, and it was thought that feeding vegetables to children would stir up sexual interest. Most surprising of all, women rarely questioned their inferior status. It was generally accepted that women were mentally and physically weak, and women themselves seemed to accept this with little questioning. The amount of change during the last century, in both material and non-material ways, is mind-boggling.

Incidentally, this book appears to be identical to "Inside the Victorian Home" by the same author.
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Format: Hardcover
Although the fifty page intro was a bit sluggish, it fortunately did not represent the rest of the book. Flanders devotes a chapter to each room in the stereotypical Victorian house, plus one for The Street. Her research gives new meaning to the word "depth". She has mined non fiction, letters, fiction,and just about anything that could possibly add insight to life in that very rigid time. The result is a wealth of analysis, as well as wonderful trivia (People did not want newfangled toilets in their bathrooms because bathrooms were clean!). From the weight of women's clothing (37 pounds), to the ways households detected adulteration in their food, and the number of mail deliveries per day (10-12), The Victorian House is a treasure trove of information. The three sections of colour plates add visual evidence to Flanders' text, and the whole thing is remarkably focused trip through this world.
I have no reservations about recommending this book.
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Format: Paperback
Like a well-run Victorian home, Judith Flanders has carefully placed each aspect of Victorian life in it's "proper place" with this thoroughly engaging book. Dedicating an entire chapter to each room of the 19th century Victorian English home(Nursery, Scullery, Kitchen,Bathroom, Parlour, Sickroom and so on), Flanders uses each room as a case-study of Victorian English life, from birth to death (and everything in-between). Flander's book draws you in to the era completely with an unromanticized glimpse into the life of average Victorians-not just the wealthy-and through a copious use of contemporary material(e.g. letters, newspapers, advertisements, diaries andliterature). All of this lends an authenticity that at times proves disarming...The details of laundry-day and the immense work involved in basic housekeeping and meal preparation are utterly amazing! After finishing "The Victorian House", I stood in awe of my household appliances and remembered the adage, "The Good Old Days...Are Now".
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Format: Paperback
I love, love, love this book. I usually can't get into non-fiction books, but this one was a pure joy to read. I was actually sad when I finished. What a fascinating journey back in time. Just a note: the footnotes are the best part. They are full of the most interesting factoids about what really went on in the typical middle-class Victorian's life. Judith Flanders has a wonderful wry sense of sarcastic humor that shines through in her writing, and I found myself laughing many times throughout this book. Makes you glad you live in modern times, but glad you can have an armchair journey back to get a glimpse of what life must have been like back then. It's made me appreciate what I have now so much more, and also to realize why we do things today the way that we do, and where those customs and traditions came from originally.

My only criticism would be that this isn't a totally objective look at Victorian life - it is all tinged with Ms Flanders' personality and judgments, and her feminist leanings quickly become obvious throughout the beginning of the book. Now, I'm all for women's rights and all that, being a woman myself, but it got a bit tiring after a while to be reminded, YET again, of how hard life was for women in that era. One other little criticism is that the introductory chapter is a bit slow - don't give up! The rest of the book picks up the pace quite considerably. It's definitely worth it! It's changed my view of my own life in today's world, and been a wonderful, and fascinating journey back over a hundred years ago, from the safety and comfort of my rather cushy 21st century existence. I didn't want it to end, even though it removed my rose-tinted glasses of "charming" Victoriana entirely!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am always curious about life in the past and this book is quite good at explaining all the things that they had in homes back in Victorian times. There are some diagrams and also pictures actually taken at that time. Tells some about family sizes, the people hired to work in the homes, problems with soot from fires, how often some parts of the kitchen were cleaned, etc. Quite interesting. I would have liked even more diagrams and pictures. Glad I got it.
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