Thursday, May 18, 2017

Book Review: Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill

"Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners" by Therese Oneill
First published in 2016
307 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5

The Short Of It:

An interesting book, but the writing style got a bit grating.

The Long Of It:
Like most fans of historical fiction and period dramas, I've occasionally wished I could travel back to the 1800s. Oh no, not permanently, just for a couple days; I know enough about history to realize things were pretty shitty for women back then. And I've got a particular affinity for long, hot showers, flush toilets, and the ability to speak my mind.

And that's pretty much what Oneill is getting at with her book: real, actual life in Victorian times was not quite the rosy, romanticized version we see in "Pride and Prejudice" or read about in a woman-as-amateur-sleuth novel. Instead, it was filled with filth, neverending boredom or neverending hard work depending on your social class, and lots and lots of men who thought they knew everything there was to know about women.

The book, which is divided into chapters about such topics as wardrobe and the wedding night, is written in a very sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek tone as if to a time traveler from the 21st century heading back to the 19th. It's also got lots of lots of pictures that were of varying degrees of interest to me, all complete with snarky captions. I kind of liked the tone for the first couple dozen pages, but it never let up, and before long it became a bit irritating.

Oneill also frequently uses extreme examples, and I suspect she picked the most polarizing quotes from primary sources she could find to illustrate her points. "Unmentionable" was an enjoyable read at times, and I did learn a few things, but I suspect there are better books along the same lines -- minus the snark. (One that's been recommended to me is "How to Be a Victorian" by Ruth Goodman.) 

1 comment:

  1. It's hard to sustain snark through a whole book, and I'm not sure how appropriate a tone it is for something like this. As you've said, life was pretty shitty for women then, so unending sarcasam probably isn't overly appropriate.


Thanks for stopping by! Comments make my day, and I read and appreciate every single one!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...