If you’re anything like me (and I imagine that you are) you’ve fantasized yourself into the plot of a novel every now and again. It’s difficult NOT to get swept up sometimes. Of course, whenever I’m in the throes of a particularly dreamy bout of “I wish I were Elizabeth Bennet” or, you know, any historical heroine, I like to remind myself about the lack of indoor plumbing. That usually helps. Which is why I was so flipping excited to get my paws on a copy of Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill. Actually, I decided to use an Audible credit to get the audio book version and OMG. It was an EXCELLENT use of a credit!
It’s so easy to get caught up in false nostalgia, isn’t it? I mean, the past gets all obscured in mist and fog. It seems so idyllic, what with the nattily dressed gents and the waltzing and folks being so polite all the time. Therese Oneill is here to burst your bubble, but her fabulous and irreverent sense of humor takes some of the sting out of it. (The narration of the audio book is A+ hilarious. If you’re on the fence, go audio!) Did you know, my little erstwhile Austen-ite, just how horrendous everyone smelled in the Victorian era? Or just how much you really love your indoor plumbing and modern sewer systems?
Oneill walks the reader, a modern 21st Century woman, through the ins and outs of life in the Victorian era. From the fashions of the day to the complex social mores, this book is seriously eye opening. Then there’s the whole issue of things we take completely for granted- say, for example, that the medical community understands that mental illness is not caused by one’s uterus? There are a zillion reasons I’m grateful I live in there here and now, in spite of any daydreams about Mr. Darcy. That dude probably smelled really, really bad anyway.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It was so funny and so informative. I wish all non fiction were this delicious. If you have even a passing interest in the subject, do yourself a favor and give Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners a read (or a listen.) You won’t regret it!
Talk to me, Bookworms! What’s the one bit of modern living that you are most grateful for?
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ohhhhh i will have to get my paws on this one!!
It’s really fantastic, I think you’ll like it!
I mean, absolutely the toilet and showers and our current feminine hygiene options, but I’m also enamored with the microwave. There’s so much to be thankful for, really. Dishwashers.
Oh there’s a whole section about feminine hygiene options, you will be EXTRA grateful for tampons after reading this. OMG though. The MICROWAVE and DISHWASHERS are things I love so intensely.
Jenny @ Reading the End
Gotta be birth control, right? Birth control’s a game-changer. You should read Ruth Goodman’s book How to Live Like a Victorian! It’s super good and she covers a really wide range of time periods and, like, class gradations? So she’ll talk about what a rich guy would have done for bathing and what a poor guy would have done, stuff like that. AND she’s like a historical reenactor, so for a lot of the stuff, she has tried it herself! And she says interesting stuff about how that works for her.
Reliable contraception is a game changer for sure. Even really basic things, like condoms would have been nice to keep from contracting the syphilis your creepy husband you married for money brought home. I’m definitely going to check out that Ruth Goodman book, it sounds right up my alley. This book didn’t focus much on class gradations, its purpose mostly being to take the romance out of the books and movies that made the Victorian era look so dreamy. I love to hear about how MY life would have been back in the day. I imagine livestock would have been involved…
I’ve been interested in this book anyway but now you have convinced me to get the audio format. Thanks!!
WHOA MAMA. I gotta check THIS out! (And I’m in all novels, didn’t you know?)
I have this one in print because I saw Oneil posting some of the pictures on IG and fell in love with the premise. I cannot wait to read it!
Katie Wilkins (@DoingDewey)
The title of this book immediately sounded like fantastic fun to me and your review only makes me more interested in picking this up. Great review!