I picked this book based on a recommendation from NPR’s Book Concierge for 2014., under the category For History Lovers. It’s a very long, very detailed book. I did some research on the author afterwards and learned that she did live the life of a Victorian for a BBC show called Victorian Farm. So when she talks about what it was like to wear period clothes and use a scythe, she had that experience for a year. The book discusses everything from the morning wash down, to dressing, to the privy and the chamber pot. The work day for different classes of people and meals are described.
I read a lot of Victorian romances. Most of the characters are upper class. Occasionally someone will date someone of a slightly lower class, but typically there are seasons, balls, and men and women who do not have to work. This book barely mentions the upper class, often in contrast to what everyone else is doing. All of the glamour is stripped away. In a romance novel, you would read about the women trying on fancy dresses to attend balls and dance utill dawn. In this book, you read about how the dressmaker was working twenty hour days during the season. Life is depicted with long days of work starting from a young age, although there is the occasional tale of someone using their education to advance in class. I enjoyed reading about how each topic (getting dressed, the privy, etc.) evolved through the Victorian era. Poverty, illness, pollution, are all a large part of everyday life. Even the section about sex isn’t very lively, although it is interesting. It did emphasize the idea that Victorian women were prudish and uninterested in sex is a myth. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in this period and anyone interested in how life evolved for the lower classes during the century. Although probably not during a Cannonball since it is so long!