A 'book of marvels'. What marks out Family Secrets as an important book is not so much its breadth as its depth ... the result is a clear sighted investigation into what our forebears felt was private, and what they kept secret. (Kathryn Hughes Guardian)
Scrupulous research with cool analysis and a humane intelligence (Financial Times)
Fascinating reading (The Scotsman)
A fact-packed and fascinating history of secret-keeping (Evening Standard)
Cohen is a formidable researcher, and she narrates the stories she has uncovered with infectious delight. A find (Judith Flanders Sunday Telegraph)
An excellent and illuminating book. . . [It is] in the fastidious detail that her book comes alive (Salley Vickers Observer)
The history of secrets and their relation to the family turns out to be far more complex and vastly more interesting than might be imagined. Family Secrets is thought-provoking, well-written and remorselessly intelligent. . . an important book (The Spectator)
A stylishly written, multilayered, broad-sweep book . . . essential reading for students on history, sociology and social policy courses . . . at a time when family "breakdown" is a matter of public concern, this book casts an illuminating light on a complex issue (Times Higher Ed (Book of the Week))
A riveting study of secrecy and shame (Daily Mail)
A rich and rewarding study. Cohen is an accomplished scholar and reconstructs the lives she uncovers in the archives with empathy and imagination (Literary Review)
A riveting book that is both a history of aspects of British culture that are swept under the carpet and a meditation on the relationship between secrecy and privacy (Joanna Bourke BBC History Magazine)
Everyone who reads this lucid book - a memorable sentence on every page - will understand their world more clearly (History Today)
An impressive piece of history (Independent)
Deborah Cohen opens up the role of the family . . . raising new questions and perspectives in this mysterious, important area of history (Times Literary Supplement)
A thoughtful critique of privacy . . . blows apart our patronising attitude towards the Victorian family (Jane Ridley Spectator)
Rigorous and relevant (TLS 'Books of the Year')
Pries open the most astounding archives to uncover what our recent ancestors tried to hide (Sunday Times 'Books of the Year')
A Sunday Telegraph and Times Higher Education 'Book of the Week', Deborah Cohen's Family Secrets is a gripping book about what families - Victorian and modern - try to hide, and why.
In an Edinburgh town house, a genteel maiden lady frets with her brother over their niece's downy upper lip. Would the darkening shadow betray the girl's Eurasian heritage? On a Liverpool railway platform, a heartbroken mother hands over her eight-year old illegitimate son for adoption. She had dressed him carefully that morning in a sailor suit and cap. In a town in the Cotswolds, a vicar brings to his bank vault a diary - sewed up in calico, wrapped in parchment - that chronicles his sexual longings for other men.
Drawing upon years of research in previously sealed records, the prize-winning historian Deborah Cohen offers a sweeping and often surprising account of how shame has changed over the last two centuries. Both a story of family secrets and of how they were revealed, this book journeys from the frontier of empire, where British adventurers made secrets that haunted their descendants for generations, to the confessional vanguard of modern-day genealogy two centuries later. It explores personal, apparently idiosyncratic, decisions: hiding an adopted daughter's origins, taking a disabled son to a garden party, talking ceaselessly (or not at all) about a homosexual uncle.
In delving into the familial dynamics of shame and guilt, Family Secrets investigates the part that families, so often regarded as the agents of repression, have played in the transformation of social mores from the Victorian era to the present day. Written with compassion and keen insight, this is a bold new argument about the sea-changes that took place behind closed doors.
Born into a family with its own fair share of secrets, Deborah Cohen was raised in Kentucky and educated at Harvard and Berkeley.She teaches at Northwestern University, where she holds the Peter B. Ritzma Professorship of the Humanities.Her last book was the award-winning Household Gods, a history of the British love-affair with the home.