This is a book I have mentioned before, as well as an interesting tv programme. If Walls could Talk – an Intimate History of the Home by Lucy Worsley.
Available cheaply in many places, including the wonderous BookPeople, this is a very readable book which goes through the history of each room in the British house throughout history. Starting with the bedroom, Worsley looks at issues such as privacy, marriage rituals, the arduous task of making a bed and the wonderful introduction of the duvet (or the continental quilt as it was known in our childhood). Anyone who has seen the tv programmes, still showing and online, will get a flavour of the perky, irreverent style of this book, though the terrible trial of not having a bath for a week was a little exagerated… has this woman never been camping? (well, nor have I since being a student the first time round – many, many years ago)
This is a British history. As I mentioned previously, I lost patience with Bryson’s similar book because of the large amount of American history. This book includes such gems as the history of servants, mourning, toilet arrangements and how to test the temperature of an oven using a piece of paper.The problems of cleaning and international royal incidents in the reign of Mary, gas lighting and the delicate motives for bathing all feature here, so that even if social history usually leaves you cold, this is a fascinating book with lots of interesting research evident. Mention must also be made of the lovely illustrations ranging from in text line drawings to high quality photographs and reproductions of paintings. This book is very picturesque in many ways, and would make a great gift for anyone with a passing interest in history. You do not need to be a fully paid up member of the National Trust to find much of interest here, as there is a great deal of gritty basic information here about houses not seen as all stately…
More books in the pipeline include A Man of Parts by David Lodge, being a book about HG Wells. This is proving surprisingly readable written in a variety of interesting biographical styles, and not at all shy of issues such as fidelity for women to marriage but men being allowed to deal with their ‘physical needs’ outside the marital bounds. The fight for women’s rights went beyond the actual vote. It also makes me interested in reading Wells’ own books, if only to see if the emphasis Lodge has chosen is true.